First Mökkipaja Experience
Kirjoittanut: Terēze Teibe - tiimistä PROD 2023.
First mökkipaja experience or in other words:
Coach: “from 1 to 5 how do you rate this mökkipaja?”
Coach: “hey this wasn’t allooowed…😮”
Right after Hiihtoloma break TRAME team decided to exceed their break of Proakatemia premises and go to its first mökkipaja together after the team division in a cozy, little cottage located in Lammi (90 km away from Tampere). The feeling of almost complete isolation for 3 days with the team might sound scary, but it actually was more like a golden button of “recharge/connect/have fun together/forget about everything” that now I know, holds a very significant impact on my team and its success. Almost like we would have all agreed, we wouldn’t talk about business, essays, and upcoming projects, but be there as most as we could – for the team.
On the same day we left (or, in other words, in a car), I finished the last dot on my first academic essay about trust as a value, as it comes as a first of all in the Proakatemia’s values. As my essay journey is very closely linked with my individual and my team’s learning journey, after I had explored more about the base of trust and creating trust-based relationships, it felt like it was time for our team to come together and connect through vulnerability. For now, I believe that this is also the purpose of holding mökkipaja in a place where no one can run away and get distracted by everyday distractions so that there is a moment when the whole team comes together to connect and stay on the same, as I like to say, wave. In other words, even after returning back and being pushed back and forward as individuals, the team would stay connected with each other to be able to move forward as a team, no matter how hard it might be.
The theme for our first mökkipaja was sharing our past and what experiences have shaped us into who we are today. We had agreed that every person would have 30 minutes time slot, where they would speak for approximately 20 minutes, and the last 10 minutes would be left for questions. We even had an alarm for 20-minute points and 10-minute points, which was by no means to create a stressful environment but to make sure that we would give equal space for everyone. That meant that even though we had people who said their last words when the clock rang to note the finish of 20 minutes’ point, there were also people that would finish by their 4th minute. Still, we would then continue to ask questions for the remaining 26 minutes to learn more about our teammates through questions.
I think it is not important to mention that the process was demanding and that we experienced a wide range of emotions. Even more, the emotions at the same moment could have also been very different – it could be that one person laughs, the other one worries, and the third – is sobbing. And this is not a metaphor because, in our case, it was the reality of how much we took care of giving equal space for every individual to share but at the same time, naturally, there were some moments when the story was just as a reflection of another person’s past. Therefore, the emotions came out as everything but words (because when the clock was off, it was time to give space for the next person and eliminate “me, me, me”). However, this, in my opinion, is where the strongest connection is formed – through connecting with empathy.
It was interesting that even after 7 months together and at least one Pecha Kucha, I still experienced the “don’t judge a book by its cover” moment. Even after knowing people so closely, there was so much that we did not know. And yet, we never meant to squeeze everything out of our people. For some, it was very difficult to talk about their past but then again – vulnerability without boundaries is not a vulnerability, and we tried to encourage people to share as much as they felt comfortable, even when we asked questions. It was so nice to discover that some people would comment that this team makes a close-to-the-family feeling while some were still on their way to building trust. Overall, these 3 days were filled with so much laughter, a spoiled lifestyle of always having amazing cultural foods on the table, board games until we couldn’t keep our eyes open, and a sauna with a snowball fight afterward.
To sum up: people need space to connect, and the idea about mökkipaja is a great solution to bring the team together.