Building Super Team Spirit
Almost everyone would agree that team spirit is important in any sporting event. Most would even agree that it’s important in any group activity. But how do you encourage team spirit in a work environment? There are no games to win, no championships to achieve, no signing bonuses to gain, no television advertising money to acquire. You could, of course, reward good team effort by bestowing raises or bonuses on effective work teams, but in the current fiscal environment, many companies can’t afford to provide financial rewards. You could also give elaborate ”thank-you” certificates or announce achievements in a newsletter, but maybe there’s another way.
As a member of a small department (Technical Publications) of one associate company (Symitar) within a large corporation (Jack Henry & Associates), I wanted to do something to encourage team spirit among our group. I felt that we did a super job on any project we endeavored to accomplish. Many company and corporate staff members expressed that sentiment also. So I thought, “Who does a super job?” And I concluded, “Superheroes!” Being a comic book fan, I thought of creating a Symitar Legion of Super Heroes (SLOSH) for our department. Now, what could I do with that?
First, I decided to create a superhero character for each person in the department (Figure 1). I’m not much of an artist but do pretty well with graphics, so with help from the Internet and some graphic editing, I came up with comic-like superhero prototypes for each of us. Using a website that helps you design your own superhero, most of the department added details to their characters, and I included the final touches.
Figure 1: Symitar Superhero Characters
Next, I asked all staff members to choose names for their characters and describe their “superpowers.” I helped some people, and others came up with some really cool stuff on their own. All of the superpowers and most of the names relate to the jobs they perform here at Symitar (Overseer, DitaKat, Docutron, Editrix, and so on). I also created an alias for our building (Docutopolis) and combined all of the superheroes and the building into an emblem (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Symitar Legion of Superheros Emblem
So, what next? What else but trading cards? For each character, I put the emblem on one side of the card (Figure 3), and then put the “real” picture and superhero character, superhero name, alter ego name, and superpowers description on the reverse (see Figure 4).
I printed the images in color and laminated them into cards. When I passed copies out to each person in the department, team spirit burst from the cubicles!
Later we discussed making larger signs to display at our cubicles. When I made those signs, someone suggested framing them to make them even more impressive. I did that, too. Now we’re thinking of making t-shirts for the team to wear and proudly display their SLOSH characters. Frequently now, we refer to each other by our SLOSH names, and even other departments are beginning to call us heroes!
When some of our heroes showed their cards to a vendor representative at a conference, she also got excited. Since she has been very helpful with our conversion to XML and DITA, we offered to make her a “Super Friend” of SLOSH. She created her own super hero, Sapphire Sense, and I created a trading card for her (Figure 5). We can’t wait to give her the card when she visits later in the year, and she’s excited about it, too. It seems like the spirit is spreading outside the company!
Figure 5: Symitar “Super Friend”
Todd V. Herrick
Symitar, a Jack Henry Company
Todd V. Herrick (a.k.a. Captain Fantastic) was born in Watsonville, California, attended high school and college in Alaska, but eventually received two AA degrees and a BS degree from schools in Ventura County, California. He worked for 27 years as a programmer and data analyst for a civilian contractor to the Navy at Point Mugu NAS before moving to San Diego to work for Symitar. He has worked for Symitar, a Jack Henry Company providing software to the credit union industry, for 11 years: both as a Programmer and Technical Writer. He is currently working remotely back in Ventura, California. Todd is the founder of the Technical Publications department’s Symitar Legion of Super Heroes.