‘Any Given Team’ is a term I’ve used a thousand times in my business development chats over the last two and a half years since joining Leading Teams. Our company founder, Ray McLean’s first book carries the same title and it’s integral to the philosophy of our organisation.
Most people that I meet who know of Leading Teams do so through sporting circles and so the intention of using the line was to change this perception and have them understand that the same principles that apply to elite sporting teams apply to their business as well. It remains a constant challenge.
I was reminded of this challenge again last weekend as I ran a session with a mate’s country footy team. “I guess all your work would be after hours,” remarked one of the senior players as he enquired as to how I was going, clearly of the belief that sporting groups are our core business. It made me reflect on my previous week’s work.
I had spent the previous weekend in Nhill, in the Wimmera District, running a business leaders retreat for management level business people. This retreat is the start of a year-long program. These participants range from small business owners, executive level government/ not for profits, to blue collar managers.
Monday was spent with a prominent Adelaide law firm, Kain C+C Lawyers. We are six months into a Performance Improvement Program as they work towards making their culture the envy of their competitors. Law firms investing in their culture is a rare thing in our experience, so that in itself sets them apart. They are a great example of dispelling another myth about our work. That is; spending time on your organisation’s dynamics and culture is not just for ‘broken teams’. The Sydney Swans have been working with us for 14 years. Why? I guess they figure they aren’t perfect yet and are committed to constant improvement.
That evening was a follow up session with a new client, the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Their new coach Michelle den Dekker has experienced our work as an assistant coach for the Australian Diamonds and is very passionate about creating a culture of empowerment within her new team. In our recent camp, the playing group shared their disappointment with their 2015 season, and were able to clearly articulate what changes they want to see from each other in this new era. My session was therefore about checking in to see how they were going with this – who were they seeing living the behaviours that they desired? And more importantly, had they told them and rewarded that behaviour.
On Wednesday, I joined an executive team of a building company, Longridge Group, an industry leading organisation of 40+ staff. This was their second day, and a particularly rewarding one, with the group identifying significant improvement in their relationships which has led to increased trust, respect and in turn, meaningful conversations and collaboration. The end result of all this is better outcomes for the business.
Another pleasing part of this session was their leader opening himself up to receiving feedback from his team. This was a valuable experience both for him and the team, with some genuinely honest productive and affirming feedback shared.
Later that day I observed a South Adelaide Football Club training session, then ran a debrief with the coaches. South are in their third year of the program. Despite financial challenges, they have increased their investment in the program, such is their investment at improving the culture of their footy club. They have had ample evidence to see how improved relationships and trust within the group, as well as strong adherence to agreed behaviours has significantly improved their on-field performance.
Thursday was a half day with the SANFL Executive Team – the group of people charged with the task of setting the future direction and agenda of football in SA in an ever-changing landscape. Under a new leader, the group have been working hard to identify exactly what their purpose is and what they want their organisational values to look like. Without a common purpose, and a clearly agreed reason for existing, we suggest that attaining high performance is not achievable.
What was particularly rewarding as I checked in on them was that they had taken the values they had drafted and asked the entire staff for feedback – to ensure genuine buy-in and engagement from the whole group. It is astonishing how many organisations in the corporate world have values that have been created by a head office somewhere, sometime ago, with no input from or thought of the people on the ground. Perhaps what is more astonishing is the level of surprise and dismay head office displays when these values aren’t reflected in the behaviours of the staff.
I finished the week with a new client in a new field for our team in SA. Maughan Thiem Automotive Group are a family owned 100+ year old company, keen to grow leadership capability within the next generation. They too had some great discussions about their purpose, and what values they wish to stand for. “How do we want to be viewed by our customers?” was a question that sparked some passionate debate.
So as I reflected on these experiences and set aside the footy jumpers, the netball skirts, the shirt and tie, the blue or white collar, it reinforced again that no matter what or where the team, male or female, big or small, young or old; the challenges faced are remarkably similar.
And as my head hit the pillow after a particularly busy and fulfilling week, I could rest easy knowing that my well-used line of ‘Any Given Team’ is much more than an overused cliché at Leading Teams.