With constant timeboxed deliveries, the pressure of commitment and quality can often drain even high-performing teams. Therefore, as a ScrumMaster, it is your responsibility to ramp up the morale and spirit of your team.
I tried this activity with one of my teams a while ago, and the results surprised me. The team had been working together for a couple of months. They knew each other well. What they did not know, however, was how highly other team members thought of them. They shared a very monotonous bond with each other. They respected each other's opinions, but the self-confidence that others can count on during an emergency was missing.
I sensed it over a period of time and decided to do something fun and worthwhile to help change the situation. I thought about this activity to use as part of one of our retrospectives. I sent an email to the team, asking them to list the strengths of each team member (including themselves, if they wished). Their responses were certainly anonymous and supposed to be honest. Other than that, they had no idea how and where this information would be used. The team included my development team along with the client application manager and product owner.
After a gentle reminder, I managed to get the responses from the team. I was amazed by them. People who did not get along very well with each other were honest enough to write about the other person's strengths. The managers and product owner from the client side had never been in the habit of giving formal appreciations. It was a good way to know what value they thought each individual brought to the team.
My next job was to write a citation. I collated all the comments for each person and created citations. I ensured that I did not add any points apart from the list, as I wanted to be true to the sentiments of the team. I created a "Scroll of Honor" for each member of the team, with their citations. I rolled it like a scroll and put a red ribbon around it. However, I had a challenge: My team was distributed across two continents. I had to ask colleagues in those locations to help me create similar scrolls there and have them ready for the retrospective.
On the day of the retrospective, we were all in a video conference. Before we started with the retrospective activity, I presented the scroll to each person at my location and requested that each senior member at the other locations present theirs to the rest of the offsite teams.
While each person read what others had written about them, I looked at their smiling faces. I knew I had nailed it. People were not aware of how highly their team members thought of them. They now knew the areas in which the team had counted on their skills. Some were unaware of their own strengths. A sense of pride and happiness flowed in the rooms. People like being appreciated, and when that appreciation comes from their peers, it matters even more. It means that they no longer consider their colleagues as competitors but as people they can count on and look up to.
I had achieved my goal. I now had a team filled with pride not only for themselves but also for the team as a whole. It was a team whose strengths and unity they unanimously acknowledged.
For reference, I've included a picture of the Scroll of Honor that I received from my team during this activity. I tried to keep the look of the scrolls as genuine as possible. Now the Scroll of Honor finds a place on each team member's desk, continuously giving its recipient a sense of responsibility, pride, and strength.