Management and team building theory states it takes a while to make a good team. To get a group of people working together towards a common vision, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, using their skills to achieve a successful outcome, takes time and work. There is good reasoning and anecdotal evidence behind this – people who have a common vision are far less likely to ego trip, people who believe in a vision, are used to working together and enjoy doing so, automatically support each other during tough times.
I have taught this for years and practiced it myself. An environment that breeds the best results is not one of back-biting and secret reporting and overt and obnoxious competitiveness. It is an environment where everyone feels valued, where their opinion is obtained and where their view is as valid as the person next to them.
Also important is the mix of skills – the skill breadth and level has to cover all the tasks required, in order for the work to be done. This is never available in the work teams you get and most of the time, there needs to be some serious up-skilling.
Over the years, I have put a great deal into making teams work by engaging with people, creating where possible, positive environments, work places that people want to come into and produce work of which they are proud. This does not mean a free for all, not everyone is able to get their way all the time, but instead works towards the delicate balance of inclusion, so that everyone’s efforts are noted and rewarded.
This is the ideal to which I have worked time and time again. The times this approach has failed is when individuals in the group have hidden agendas, when their individual aims are different to the group and when they are encouraged to lie and pay lip service to a vision.
Never, ever would I expect a group of six people, only two of whom had met briefly twice before, sit down round a table and be a cohesive, constructive, smart and productive team. The fact that this happened still has me a little gobsmacked. Don’t get me wrong – I knew that they were all good people, nice people, willing to give up a Saturday and travel long distances for hours to agree actions and intentions for the inaugural meeting of a new mental health charity. But good, nice people aren’t enough to make a team effective.
You need the balance of personalities, the buy-in into a shared vision; you need the right mix of skills; you need energy, enthusiasm and a willingness to work together. You also need a lack of ego (and sometimes a bit of one), you need a sprinkle of natural leadership, an understanding of the challenges and open, honest conversation. As well as all this, you need everyone to be willing to listen, take on board and open their minds to other people’s opinions so that discussions are lively, but not combative.
Up until today, I thought that was impossible to achieve in a group of people who had just met. I would never, ever have thought that it was sane to suggest it.
But there we were, round the table, all engaging, all listening, cohesive, focussed, driven and working together as if we had been at it for years. And as I looked round, there were all the skills we needed at that time and place. Two people could not make it and they were missed. They share a sparkiness and quick-witted intellect which will do us proud in the months to come.
Not only did we get everything done on a challenging agenda that none of us thought possible to complete but we did it so effortlessly, the time sped by, punctuated only by several photo shoots (all of us) and ciggie breaks (me). We managed not only to work, but to laugh, to agree, to pend agreement, to rethink, revisit where required, eat amazing food (thanks to PAW who put on a wonderful spread), get through huge amounts of tea and apple juice (me again) and enjoy every minute.
I am a little awed at what we have created. I am still concerned that we have such a long road ahead of us. But I am no longer scared that we are going to muck this up. In fact, right now it seems that if you gave this team just about anything to do, they could achieve it.
PG, JT, KW, PAW and DE, I salute you!
And for anyone who hasn’t spotted what we have started yet … here is the link 🙂 http://5quidforlife.org.uk/2011/01/27/welcome-to-5-quid-for-life/