I am still inspired by my first boss, Jenny. One thing that I remember about her was that she made tea most mornings for our departmental cleaning lady, Vicky. About 10.30, Jenny’s voice would ring out in the department: ‘Vicky, your tea’s ready!’ And that still inspires me: every member of our team valued, no-one too important to help out, willing to serve one another, caring, but also focused on achieving together. Jenny was kind, but she was not a soft touch – she got in early, she worked hard, she challenged us when our work and attitude were not good enough. And she also made tea for Vicky, and left a lasting impression on me. She was (and still is!) an excellent leader who created an environment where everyone thrived.
I am part of the Thrive leadership team, and we have been building and growing Thrive Worldwide since the autumn: we know it is so important that we practice what we preach. As we help our client organisations to thrive, we also need to make sure our organisation is one where people thrive, and as leaders we need to think carefully about the culture we are creating. And that is the same for many of our client organisations, and the same for you too if you are reading this – how do we as leaders make sure that we and the people in our organisations thrive? How do we develop and sustain thriving teams?
One key aspect of thriving organisations are thriving teams. I am passionate about teams and team performance, because most of us work in teams, most things are achieved by teams, and effective team work is essential for successful organisations. In spite of a growth in thinking about leadership and an acceptance of the importance of good leadership in recent years, there is still much less emphasis on teams and teamship. Part of our 21st century culture is to focus on individuals and their celebrity rather than on teams, which denies the reality of how most of us work. Sir Clive Woodward, former manager of the successful England Rugby team, said “Teamship is just as important as leadership, if not more so”. For organisations to thrive, I believe that leaders need to believe that teamship is really important.
The definition of team I like to use is ‘a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.’
There are a number of important principles in this definition:
- The people who make up a team are in good relationships with each other
- They need to know and understand what they are doing and how they are doing it
- They need to measure how they are doing and then know what they will do as a result – how will they respond when it works out / doesn’t work out
The essence of what makes a team thrive is in this definition – all three areas need to be working or the team will not thrive.
Another definition of TEAM that is used is ‘Together Eveyone Achieves More’, and clearly for many thriving teams this is true. However, for some teams this is not the case, and many of us have been in teams where a disproportionate amount of time and energy is used up trying to work out how to work together. Rather like a computer functioning very slowly because there is another big programme running in the background using up all the memory. In these situations everyone may be wondering if they could achieve more by not being a team! This sort of team is definitely not a thriving team and I am pretty certain that the people who are part of it will not be thriving either. Investing time and energy to work with teams, to help them work well together, will be a good investment. Thriving teams, with thriving people are what make up thriving organisations where together everyone can achieve more.
Over the years of my career since I worked for Jenny, I have had the privilege of working with many different leaders and their teams. And I have learned is that good leadership is less about being a hero and more about being a host, as Margaret Wheatley and Simon Walker describe: it is about serving people and creating a culture and environment where others can flourish and thrive: where each person can be most effective in their work. It is about building highly-effective teams and ensuring impactful relationships, both within organisations and with other teams and organisations. It can definitely start by making the tea…..
Alison Coulter, Director of Health Services, Thrive Worldwide