One of the most powerful exercises we run during our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (ACSM) is the Journey Lines and Top Traits exercise. I thought I would share the details of the exercise here, so you can run it with your own team.

Journey Lines (credit to Lyssa Adkins)

I took inspiration from an exercise in Lyssa’s book called Journey Lines. The process is simple – on a blank chart (like the one here) a team charts their career as journey through positive and negative emotions.

Journey Line Exercise Template

They can add any life events they feel are pertinent, and even annotate the line to help explain it. The idea is that all team members complete their own journey lines as the first part of the exercise – this typically takes 5-10 minutes.

Top Traits

The follow up to the journey lines exercise is something we have added ourselves. We give each team member a “Top Traits” card (like the one shown below).

Then one member of the team will narrate their journey, while the rest of the team listen. We encourage team members to only share what they want to share (to increase safety) and ask the listeners to resist interrupting. Once the narrator has described their whole journey, the listening team members are invite to answer the question “What attributes does this person (the narrator) bring to this team?”.

This idea being that the listeners will suggest personality traits (based on their own emotional intelligence and intuition) of their fellow team member. If the narrator “accepts” that they have that trait, they write it onto their Top Trait card. We continue that process until five traits have been suggested and accepted. The narrator can reject a suggested trait if it’s way off the mark. Once traits have been filled in, the remainder of the card is completed – the narrator is challenged to share a nickname they have (currently or previously), draw a self-portrait in the top corner, and state their SUPERPOWER. This is a skill they feel they have more than anyone else. Repeat this process for all team members, until everyone has a complete Top Trait card (usually about 8 minutes per team member).

Benefits of the exercise

  • Exposing vulnerability – team members share their own positive and negative life experiences, and the team can learn in which situations their peers may need support
  • Increased emotional intelligence – team members learn which emotions their peers recognised in themselves as well as others
  • More storytelling – our life experiences can be a great way to establish rapport, common ground and trust
  • Teams build on solid foundations – this kind of “heavy lifting” takes time and effort but can hotwire the team forming phase of team growth
  • Reassurance for team members – it’s nice to hear that others recognise our own strengths and weaknesses

Some tips for Scrum Masters

  • Lead by example – try going first by sharing your own journey line and asking the team to recognise your own traits. This can increase safety in the exercise, and other might be more willing to show their vulnerability if you show yours first.
  • Reflect on the exercise as a team – get some feedback on how it worked. If the team suggest a tweak – go with it.

Hope you enjoy the exercise – give it a try and let me know how it goes! Interested to experience this exercise first hand? Check out or upcoming Advanced Certified Scrum Master (ACSM) classes near you!

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