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Watershed's Personal Priorities Ritual: Operating at the intersection of intensity and care

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The intersection of intensity and care: Watershed's Personal Priorities ritual

At , one of our core is operating principles is “operate at the intersection of intensity and care”. That means we both work very hard and care about each other deeply. It’s important for us to recognize that work isn’t our only identity, nor our only priority even as we focus on it intensely.
Since our first day as a company, we’ve put that into practice using a ritual we call personal priorities. It takes shape as a document you write and a session talking through the document with your team. The ritual builds trust, opens up conversations and gives folks a three dimensional picture of you.
The purpose of personal priorities is to:
Recognize and share who we are beyond the workplace
Share our similarities and differences to drive connection and conversation
Be demanding of Watershed and your team in protecting your personal priorities (“What can we as a team do to help?”).

How Watershed weaves personal priorities into the culture

Personal priorities are baked into our operating cadence from day one:
New hires write their personal priorities within their first four weeks and preview them with their onboarding buddy. You post your doc and can view others’.
Managers are in charge of scheduling their team’s live personal priorities sessions, within six weeks of a new hire onboarding. Each person, including the new hire(s), spends 15 minutes sharing their individual personal priorities doc with the group. Onboarding is not considered complete until the session has been held.
Other Watershedders review and update their personal priorities before their team sessions. A longer-tenured Watershed employee is tasked with leading the group, sharing context and guidance for newcomers, and timekeeping.
There is at least one big moment a year where everyone will share across the company outside of the team context.

Writing and sharing your priorities

Writing a personal priorities doc and attending the first live session can be scary. It’s intentionally a bit of a trust-fall into your team and Watershed.
We give this general guidance to folks as they write their doc and get prepared for their first session:
Docs usually cover 3 to 5 priorities or areas. Most people frame them as “my top priorities outside of work” or “what to know about my personal landscape.”
Share as much as you’re comfortable with—some docs are a few bullets, others are full of paragraphs and stories.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Everyone loves seeing photos—be it of family, friends, favorite places, or activities.
Do not feel pressure to share more than you’re comfortable with. It can be scary to share, and we don’t want to push folks beyond their comfort zone. Groups are asked to avoid probing questions and be curious but not pushy; but it’s always ok to pass on responding to a question.

If you’re stuck, here are a few prompts to get you started:
Outside of work, I spend my time on …
What are the highlights of my life story?
The important people, places or things in my life are …
To work with me, it’s important for you to know that …

Most of all, there is no wrong way to write this document. One of the most beautiful things about these docs is that folks have brought their own personalities to them. It’s these types of details that bring our ritual to life by showcasing the unique lives of Watershed employees.

Personal priorities in practice

Here’s an example of a personal priorities write-up in Coda. Click on the card to learn what’s important to that person outside of work.
Adam Davis
You can also spin the wheel below to pick a random person from the list. Spinning the wheel is a fun way to start a meeting or as an icebreaker at team events. Give it a shot at your next team gathering!
Spin the wheel

Use personal priorities with your team

We’re sharing Watershed’s template so you can implement a similar ritual on your team. Copy this doc, then go to the .

Copy this doc

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