Achieving high team morale is crucial for a productive work environment.
However, reaching this goal is often more complex than it seems.
Many factors can negatively impact team morale:
- Ineffective communication: Misunderstandings and lack of clarity disrupt workflow.
- Limited growth opportunities: Stagnation leads to disengagement.
- Frequent internal changes: Constant shifts can cause uncertainty.
- Weak leadership: Ineffective leaders fail to inspire or guide.
- Inadequate recognition: Lack of appreciation demotivates.
- Poor work-life balance: Overwork leads to burnout.
Okay, but what should be done to overcome them?
It all comes down to setting up the right culture of communication, support, and psychological safety:
- Build Trust: Foster a culture of mutual respect and reliability.
- Recognize achievements: Regularly acknowledge team efforts and successes.
- Address conflict proactively: Don’t shy away from addressing issues head-on.
- Promote transparency: Keep team members informed and involved.
- Cultivate a coaching culture: Encourage continuous learning and development.
- Solicit feedback: Actively seek and respond to team input.
- Measure morale: Use tools to assess and track team sentiment.
If you do the last two right, everything else will be effortless. That’s why mood tracking is pivotal in your strategy to improve team morale.
Here’s what this guide includes:
- Description of the 4 main ways to track mood: niko-niko calendar, mood-related retrospectives, team health checks, and dedicated tools like TeamMood
- Different use cases of mood tracking
- A case study on how two Fortune 50 companies use mood tracking
- All the mood-related retrospective formats
- Cheatsheet to run team health checks
- How to use TeamMood to plan retrospectives and team health checks
What is mood tracking?
It’s the action to ask the team at regular interval how they feel.
It’s as simple as that.
Yet, it’s one of the best technique to improve team morale, foster psychological safety, and create healthy team dynamics.
The benefits of mood tracking
Just to know the mood and how it changes over time
Is your team happy or sad? Seems like a simple question, but reality is often different than what we think.
So mood tracking is perfect to just know the mood.
But it’s also a great way to understand how mood evolves over time, for example throughout a project.
Improve team morale
Having data to know how your team morale stands, it forces you to reflect and see where the gaps are and take action.
Improve communication and collaboration
According to a Forbes report in 2023, over 50% of remote workers feel that poor communication reduces trust both in leadership and in their team.
Because tracking mood is simple & quick, it’s an easy way to get your team communication flowing more smoothly.
Allow introverts to open up more
Introverts need time by themselves to think.
So asking complex questions during meetings will make it hard for them to express themselves.
But mood tracking doesn’t require elaborate thoughts and can be anonymous, which makes it suited for introverts.
Explicit the implicit
Human beings tend not to be explicit enough or bottle up emotions. But we’re also not mind readers.
Mood tracking is an easy way to get our emotions out more.
Foster psychological safety
We bottle up our emotions because we’re afraid of the reaction of others.
Mood tracking without judgment will allow the team to feel safe and share more.
Create a team diary
Mood tracking is a great way to create a team diary or a reference source for retrospectives and other meetings.
How to track mood?
With this technique, each team member adds a smiley adapted to their mood each day on a calendar. You can draw one on paper or on a whiteboard.
For agile teams, retrospectives are the most familiar.
At the end of each sprint, cycle, or project, you can gauge team morale with a adapted retrospective format.
With each retrospective, use the previous one to see how the mood has changed and there you have it: mood tracking.
Team health checks
It’s a mix of retrospectives and the niko-niko calendar. This self-assessment technique gauges feelings of the team over multiple areas at regular intervals.
Read our guide that goes into the details
of running team health checks efficiently
Dedicated tools like TeamMood
Instead of setting up everything yourself, the best way to get started and make sure to keep it going is to use a dedicated tool.
TeamMood is one of those tools and allows you to have your niko-niko calendar and team health checks in just a few minutes.
- TeamMood increases feedback frequency. Get daily or weekly notifications to everyone in your team in just a few minutes after signing up.
- TeamMood is fun. The only thing your teammates need to do is click on their corresponding mood and they are done. Written comments are optional. It’s perfect to start getting more feedback. And it’s easy and quick enough to keep this habit in the long term.
- TeamMood is anonymous. Your teammates won’t be scared to give honest feedback because their identity is hidden.
- TeamMood helps you transform feedback into action. Our analytics dashboard help you monitor and analyze feedback to uncover actionable insights more easily.
How to foster honest feedback?
Tools can’t do all the work. Getting honest feedback is also a human problem.
There are many reasons your teammates don’t want to share their feedback or only gives shallow feedback.
- They are waiting for you to give feedback. It’s always hard to do the first step, especially when it’s to their leader.
- They are afraid negative feedback will be taken personally. Not a lot of people will feel comfortable giving negative feedback if they think there will be consequences like getting unrealistic annual objectives or being ostracized.
- They are discouraged because their feedback is not taken into account. Feeling ignored is hard on the morale and results in less feedback or even no feedback at all.
It’s your role to make sure your teammates are in a safe environment to give honest feedback. It will make your job easier and everybody will be happier. Here are what you can do.
- Don’t be the boss. Be a leader. If you put too much distance and show off your power too much, your teammates will be scared to give feedback.
- Don’t react badly. That’s an obvious one, but it needs to be said. Negative feedback is useful so don’t be mad.
- If you want feedback, give feedback. Reciprocity is very beneficial to get feedback from your teammates.
- Ask for feedback often. There are still a lot of managers doing only annual reviews for feedback. Ask for feedback daily or weekly with a tool like TeamMood.
- Make feedback fun. 1-on-1 meetings feel very formal and it’s not really a fun way to give feedback. Software is also not necessarily fun. Find a fun way to gather feedback.
- Make feedback anonymous. If your teammates’ identities are hidden, they will feel more comfortable and give honest feedback.
- Feedback is a gift. Or at least, think of it as one. Be grateful and take care of it. Show genuine interest.
- Transform feedback into action. If you asked for feedback, use it! Analyze it and find actions you can take based on the results.
- Reflect. Hold meetings in order to reflect on what feedback enabled the team to do and how it changed the mood. But leave judgments at the door!
- Be open about your mistakes. Everyone make mistakes. Don’t deny it or your teammates won’t be able to trust you. Be truthful when you make a mistake.
How two Fortune 50 companies use TeamMood to implement healthy team dynamics
The 3 challenges of Roland and Andy
Roland is a supervisor of a feature systems engineering team for a global automotive company. He has technical responsibilities but is also a people leader and manages a team of 10 people. TeamMood is also used by more departments and more than a thousand people there.
Andy is an Agile Coach and Senior Scrum Master at a Fortune 50 company. He serves multiple cross-functional software development teams (composed of engineers, UI/UX designers, product owners, testers, etc…) who are building a national ecommerce platform.
Both were facing similar challenges:
- No way to monitor team morale
- A desire to improve team dynamics
- Difficulty of team bonding remotely
They both chose to use TeamMood to solve these challenges.
Andy: “A lot of companies experiment with ways of measuring and visualizing how their teams are doing (KPI’s, ROV’s, NPS, etc.,) looking for areas where there are opportunities for improvement. The general idea being you can’t improve what you don’t measure. And without some sort of systemic approach with clear visualization – things would very much be a guessing game. TeamMood provides just that.”
Challenge #1: Team morale monitoring
Managers generally start looking into mood tracking for a simple reason: they want to check whether their teammates are happy or sad.
And in turn, it lets them lead the team and projects better.
Here’s how Andy puts it:
Andy: A team’s mood is a leading indicator of what’s going to happen soon. A happy team is an engaged, performing team. Such a team creates better solutions with higher quality than a consistently unhappy team.
On the other hand, if the mood of the team is dropping, I can be pretty sure that without some intervention a drop in productivity will follow. Seeing a downward trend gives me the opportunity to respond proactively.
Challenge #2: Team dynamics
Here’s what team dynamics is: it’s the relationships and interactions between a group of people who work together to accomplish a shared goal.
And it’s not possible without getting regular feedback from your teammates.
Most companies only have very sparse employee surveys that are by far not enough and it’s up to the managers to find a better solution.
Here’s how Rolland describes the problem with the biannual surveys they had in his company:
Roland: It’s a very high level tool because you don’t really see verbatim comments from people. You don’t see what their actual issues are. Respondents may answer a particular question negatively, but it’s very hard to find out why. Also as it’s only twice a year, you have to wait several months for the results to come in. Then you interpret the results and try to identify what we could do to make improvements in those areas. So the whole process takes a long time and is open to interpretation.
To summarize: data from these surveys are unusable.
Challenge #3: Remote team bonding
The last challenge is more specifically a remote or hybrid challenge. Team bonding often happens during breaks to the point of having the “water cooler effect” as an expression.
For those who don’t know about it: it’s the tendency of employees to gather informally around a water cooler in order to socialize and share information.
But how do you foster team bonding remotely?
Slack is an option but it’s not the best tool to share everything with everybody.
Mood tracking tools like TeamMood answer this perfectly as you can have anonymous discussions around various topics.
Roland: “The problem could be “an issue at home” which helps me to recognise that someone may have things going on that I can not help with directly, but can always offer a chat if they are willing to speak up.”
TeamMood solves all these challenges
To solve these 3 challenges, you need:
- A distributed niko-niko calendar
- Remote water cooler
- And anonymity
Options that have all these capabilities are very limited. That’s why Andy and Rolland favored TeamMood.
Andy: “TeamMood makes it easy to gather data daily, and by using tags, drill down to specific functions or roles for a large team. And even track multiple teams. And then I can visualize trends over time and identify inflexion points. Seeing the pulse of the teams with such clarity gives me the opportunity to be a better coach - responding in near real time.”
And with TeamMood, there’s a lot of things they are able to do.
Use case #1: Run retrospective efficiently
Andy uses TeamMood to prepare retrospectives. By using the feedback he gets every day from TeamMood, he’s able to find the most important topics to discuss during the next retrospective and this way the retrospectives are organized and efficient.
Andy: “I’ll tap into the comments when designing an upcoming retrospective. And as a team we can discuss making sure we don’t lose the elements that contribute to happiness, and that we strive to reduce or eliminate that things that make us sad.”
Use case #2: Team health checks
Roland runs weekly meetings to look at TeamMood’s data. They’re akin to team health checks. They can discuss different topics they talked about in the comments of TeamMood during the week to expand on them and reflect on the trends.
Roland: “Every week within our team of ten, we look at the last week’s data on TeamMood. We look at some of the comments to see how we’re doing, how the trend is, whether we’ve had a good week or a not-so-good week.”
Another thing Roland does is making sure successes are celebrated. We tend to focus on solving problems and skipping celebrations, but praise is important.
Roland: “The other thing we do in our team meetings is we look at the successes from the last week. So, you know, everybody encourages everybody to come up with what success they’ve had in the last week. And it doesn’t have to be a work success. It could be a personal success. It’s important because in an engineering and product development environment, we’re often working on resolving issues and fixing problems. We maybe had five new problems come up this week, but we were successful in delivering another ten.”
Use case #3: Better daily stand-ups
Rolland uses comments from TeamMood to drive daily stand-ups too. This way, the important topics that must be addressed during the stand-up are known beforehand and it makes stand-ups more straightforward.
Roland: “I encourage them to always put in a comment. Not everybody does it every day, but I always try to put a comment in. It could be that something at work has not gone well, or somebody didn’t turn up for a meeting, or they felt not supported by somebody else, or a test vehicle was delayed and they couldn’t conduct the testing they wanted to do.”
Use case #4: Proactive project management
Monitoring team mood over time is really useful to react quickly when there’s a problem in a sprint or during a project. No need to wait for a retrospective.
Andy: “Is it time for a happy hour mid sprint? Or an hour break for some serious play-time? With TeamMood it’s easy for a scrum master to know!”
Use case #5: Fostering psychological safety
By getting moods and comments from the team more regularly, Rolland is able to help his teammates more and that makes them feel listened to, which in turn increases engagement to provide even more comments and be more open.
Roland: “So I think that just helps to make people realize that they are being listened to. They’re not just typing in and it goes into TeamMood. We are actually looking at it daily.”
How to use TeamMood to plan retrospectives
Whether you run retrospectives every week, two weeks, or every month, it’s hard to remember everything that happened during that timeframe.
With TeamMood, you can get a lot of data to prepare retrospectives. Here’s how it’s done.
1/ Check the average mood for a defined period
Go to the analytics view and select a period.
If you use sprints or cycles, just use the day of the beginning of the cycle and the day it stops. If not, take the period between the last retrospective and the new one.
Write down the average and the days where it fluctuates more than usual.
2/ Compare with the previous period
Just looking at the current period doesn’t tell you if the mood got better or worse, so you need to compare it with the previous one.
By comparing with the previous period, you will see if the current period has average mood changed and is more or less stable.
Leverage tags to segment data even further.
3/ Check the calendar view
Analytics tells you what the mood was but not why it was the way it was. Also, there could be a single abnormal mood in a sea of great moods the analytics didn’t catch.
So on the calendar view, select the current period and see if there is anything particular. Here too, you can use the previous period for comparison.
4/ Review word cloud, written feedback, and take notes
See for the selected period what are the most used words. Write them down and anything that comes into your mind associated with those words that happened during the cycle.
Review all written feedback and take notes on anything that could help with the retrospective.
5/ Use insights to write a great team meeting agenda
Based on all your notes, you can fill in a mood-related retrospective format which can be used as the basis of the retrospective.
Or organize notes into any other classic retrospective format too.
How to use TeamMood to run team health checks
As mentioned in the case study, Roland runs weekly meetings to look at TeamMood’s data. They pretty close to team health checks, so here’s how you can do it too.
1/ With TeamMood, you get the mood of each teammate every day.
2/ At regular intervals, ask questions through TeamMood on a topic related to the areas (e.g. ownership, value, fun) you want to assess.
2.5/ If you don’t have any idea for the question, TeamMood gives you suggestions.
3/ Wait for your teammates to reply to the question (it’s anonymous).
4/ On the day of the team health check, look back at the moods and the feedback you’ve got during the week and organize the data across the areas you want to address.
You’re ready for the team health check!
Mood-related retrospective formats
Try these formats and find the one that the team feels the most comfortable with. These formats are pretty similar but with slight differences so depending on your needs you might find one that fits the team and circumstances better.
This retrospective format allows you to know how the team feels about different areas. A basic one is to have these 3 areas: people, technology, and processes.
But you can ask about the team how they feel about a lot more things, here are some examples: is the atmosphere fun? How is the communication? Is your role clear? Do you have everything you need?
Happiness radar (timeline)
A variation of the happiness radar is to replace areas by the important steps of a project or sprint. Doing it regularly is a great way to track the mood of the team.
It’s similar to the happiness radar timeline but more precise. By tracing a line instead of adding marks in cells, the team can be more nuanced into their moods over time.
Mad Sad Glad
This one is a classic in retrospectives. Here instead of adding marks, each team member adds comments in the right emotion to express themselves.
How do you feel?
Similar to “Mad Sad Glad” but with more emotions to dive deeper and get more nuanced comments.
Energy level retrospective
Instead of focusing on emotions, you might want to focus on energy to gauge if their fatigue and motivation.
Doing them at the beginning of a project or sprint will show if the team is energized enough for what’s to come.
Team health check cheatsheet
You might wonder how to run team health checks, so here’s a cheatsheet that will give you the essentials to run team health checks.
- Health indicators: They are criteria used to evaluate a team’s well-being, effectiveness, and cohesion, ensuring optimal performance and member satisfaction.
- Meeting requirements: Team health checks require a few tools to get the most out of them, be sure everything is set up before starting your first meeting.
- Meeting agenda: Don’t know how to proceed during team health checks? Follow this agenda.
- Voting process: That’s the most important part of the meeting, don’t forget any step here.
Pick the indicators you want to monitor.
- Collaboration: We communicate regularly and respectfully.
- Fun: Our team enjoys working together.
- Learnings: We always seek to improve our skills.
- Goal alignment: We all know our purpose and believe we can make valuable solutions.
- Ownership: Our team makes decisions independently and takes responsibility.
- Process: Our methods help us add value without delays.
- Resources: We have everything needed to complete our tasks.
- Roles: Everyone knows their job and has the skills for team success.
- Speed: We deliver on time while maintaining quality.
- Value: We clearly provide measurable benefits to the business and users.
- Communication: We speak clearly, reducing conflicts and boosting efficiency.
Set up team health check meetings properly.
- Meeting time
- Voting tool
- Video conferencing
- Note-taking app
Here’s how to proceed during the meeting.
- Set the stage (5min): thank teammates, reiterate program, ask about expectations.
- Vote & discuss (30min)
- Debriefing (10min): Celebrate top health indicators and make a plan to improve the lowest ones.
How the voting system works.
- State the indicator and its description
- Ask the team to think how they will vote on the indicator
- Ask teammates for feedback
- Discuss thoughts
- Repeat for each indicator
Read our guide that goes into the details of
running team health checks efficiently
Header photo by Dawid Zawiła