Playing by Heart: Powerful Conversations That Build Team Trust

Janan Knust of Santiago, Chile spent the last decade building his logistics company KLog. Thanks to rapid growth, he recently shifted his focus to preparing for investors. As KLog expands into Mexico and Peru–with team members spanning countries–Janan sees the value in establishing a scalable, trusting culture that will ultimately provide a strategic business advantage. Because even the most talented teams get stuck in ruts, he knew he had to start by fine-tuning his executive team’s working relationships.

While discussing how to create a powerful offsite experience for his team with Endeavor President and Circles partner Adrian Garcia, Janan learned that Endeavor relies on Circles for virtual & in-person peer circles. Rather than relying on a traditional team offsite, Adrian suggested Janan also gather his executive team in CircleSpace sessions. Recalling the power of his previous Circles experience through his Harvard OPM network forum, Janan put a plan in place for a CircleSpace executive team offsite. Janan tells us that “Learning is great, but the real value of ideas is when they are put into action. At HBS, I learned that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Discovering Circles, I saw the potential for real transformation. It offers a unique opportunity to put this theory into practice and change any organization’s culture.”

With the widespread adoption of hybrid and dispersed work, companies need spaces to elevate their teams through powerful, high-value conversations. Here’s KLog’s story of building team trust in Circles.

Laying Foundations of Trust

Almost ten years ago, the KLog executive team began as startups do: a core group of leaders, small enough to function hands-on, operating without a framework that scaled beyond themselves. Over time they added digital SaaS execs to their team, grew rapidly, and dispersed across Latin America. This growth coupled with the need to prepare for investors presented the opportunity to quickly build trust as an executive team, while simultaneously putting a plan in place to scale that culture.

When Janan suggested that a facilitated program be incorporated into his team offsite, KLog CFO and Chief Strategist Igal Meirovich knew it was the right move. “In professional dynamic environments, getting personal can look weak. So you have to be intentional about opening up with each other. That’s when you realize authenticity is a strength, not a weakness.”

Together with the Circles team, Igal put a plan in place for the executives to step away from the grind and go deep, using Circles’ Foundations of Trust (FOT) program. FOT teaches teams how to listen to each other, through equitable conversations honoring each person. Using a three pillar framework of openness, accountability and shared purpose, a facilitator guides teams to establish norms while prompting deeper questions, both of which invite teams to open up in ways they typically haven’t before.

KLog’s exec team gathered for their initial session in CircleSpace, with a facilitated agenda framed around openness.  That session introduced strong small group norms that set the stage for powerful in-person sessions discussing accountability and shared purpose, guided by Circles Certified Guide, Jami.  Each conversation made space for reflection, honesty and problem solving – necessary components to building trust on their team.

These intentional spaces allowed the KLog executive team to talk about the hard stuff, resulting in significant breakthroughs.

Playing by Heart

Igal knows you can’t build a high-performing team without openness, accountability, and shared purpose. He likens it to a successful soccer team. “Down here in Chile, we play soccer. If you pass the ball, you need to be able to trust the teammate you’re playing with, like when you throw a pass, he’ll be there 100% to receive the ball and execute the next move. We call that kind of trust playing by heart.”

He says playing by heart is also like a dance: you can’t build trust without getting personal, yet you can’t get personal without building trust.

Foundations of Trust makes room for that dance, and gave Igal’s team the tools to have tough conversations. “In one session, my teammate brought up a monthly report I’m responsible for that is never on time. He reminded me that he relies on that report for his team to function.” That conversation prompted Igal to grow in team accountability.

Jami guided them through the process, identifying and drilling down on significant discussions that naturally arose. Igal says she was key to the process. “We’re a busy, demanding, intense team, and she crossed cultures with us, helping us have those tough conversations.

Igal sees the importance of continuing their CircleSpace journey. “We must meet regularly in CircleSpace to continue that dance between getting personal and building trust. That’s how we can go deeper as a team and play by heart.”

Keeping Promises: A Team Breakthrough

KLog’s very first Foundations of Trust session showcased the power of the experience to CTO Alvaro Serrano. “We could not have had the same dynamic in person, or using a different platform. Circles is a strategically designed space with a moderator that guides the whole conversation.” He noticed how the design and features allow everyone to engage equitably. “In Circles, the CEO is one of us, and that is a highlight. There weren’t differences based on competencies or experience or organizational level.” The session icebreakers also stood out to Alvaro, who commented “They are not fluff: they give way to real vulnerability.”

That vulnerability quickly built the trust that allowed KLog’s executive team to engage in hard conversations–which in turn built more trust, like the dance Igal described. Those difficult but necessary conversations opened the door to accountability; Alvaro mentioned one session where the first ten minutes covered keeping promises, a subject he realized applied to him. He says Jami expertly facilitated important conversations. “She helped identify my case as a discussion point, and everyone asked questions and really got me going into an introspection.

Since becoming KLog’s CTO six years ago, Alvaro built a team of 25 engineers from scratch. Over time, he delegated writing code to the team, yet his passion for the craft kept him writing code instead of managing his team better. “The decision I made during Foundations of Trust was to stop writing code. I can’t do that and manage 25 engineers at the same time. I came away with two priorities: keeping promises, and managing my team.”

After completing Foundations of Trust, Alvaro says the executive team made a commitment to each other: “If nothing carries forward to our teams from this offsite, then we will have failed. We must effectively communicate out what we’ve learned, scale it, and share it with our teams throughout the organization.” He says Circles will scale their core company values and give them a competitive edge in the field of logistics. “I think what differentiates us in the logistics industry is our empathy, authenticity and transparency. We want those values to be reflected in sales, operations, and customer service and success. We need to translate the Circles experience to the rest of KLog.”

Scaling Powerful Teams’s Executive Leadership Team strengthened the way they operate with a high level of trust, improving the quality of their strategic decisions and acting as a model for the rest of the organization. Ultimately, scaling that culture will allow them to continue serving their customers and reaching their goals in a way that’s true to their values of empathy, authenticity and transparency. In phase two, the Circles team will customize the off-the-shelf program, translate it into Spanish, and train KLog leaders & HR business partners to deliver it to their next layer of teams.


CircleSpace is paving the way for high-performing, trusting team culture that scales. We’ve worked with and distilled best practices from management, thought leaders, and social learning experts like Harvard Business School, The Aspen Institute, and Young Presidents Organization. Together with our partners, we’ve designed an interface that creates a refreshing experience and offers the transformative capability to take team conversations to another level.

Foundations of Trust is the perfect way to begin a Team Table experience of ongoing high-value conversations–in fact, we’ve built Foundations of Trust right into Team Table as a result of the KLog case study. Going forward, Team Table offers continuous, high-impact conversation templates for KLog managers to use with their teams.

Stuck in a rut with your own team? Experience CircleSpace for yourself: book your complimentary session in The Team Table here!