I remember waiting for the bell to go, the bell that I was so used to hearing, the one that essentially gave me permission to eat and use the bathroom.
I had arrived just after 8am as I normally did and expected the hustle and bustle of colleagues getting ready for their day. But it was quiet. No bells, few people in and out over the day, not even a welcome morning tea!
When I walked into our office in North Melbourne that day, 10 years ago, it was my first day at Leading Teams after teaching for nine years.
The induction at Leading Teams back then was in no way structured or organised. I received a folder with a copy of all our models in it, and whilst everyone was very helpful with insights into how the business worked from a mechanics viewpoint, invoicing etc., it was very informal.
I was tested straight away because of this; a bit lost, not sure what I needed to do to pull my weight. And it was clear that I would need to take responsibility for my own learning.
I was lucky to be able to spend my first nine months shadowing a team mate; I went everywhere with him. In those days he was doing a lot of travel to far East Gippsland (regional Victoria) so we spent a lot of time in the car together.
Not only was this a great opportunity to continue to build our relationship (I knew Gerard well, he was the one that brought me into Leading Teams), but it also helped me to learn how we worked.
He would spend many hours on the phone whilst he was driving, so I got to overhear all his conversations, every one on loud speaker. I heard the language he used around teams and high performance, the questions he asked to challenge coaches / CEOs and the relationships he built. The time was invaluable.
During this first nine months, I was also part of the group that interviewed candidates for our new CEO role – we then made recommendations to the owners – and I experienced my first-ever team review against our trademark (it involved a sum of cash put on the table and a robust conversation, needless to say we’ve learnt that that’s not the way to do it!). These experiences were hugely significant for me – I’d never seen a process like it, where the views of all team members at all levels were taken into account and where the team was genuinely held to account against our values, not just financial performance.
Going it alone
It was only when I pulled up outside a primary school in Echuca in January 2009 that it dawned on me – this was my first day facilitating on my own! Such was the induction, as effective as it was informal, that I had learnt an enormous amount about Leading Teams from the observation, co-facilitation, review conversations and sharing of ideas; to the point that I was ready to go on that day, it was a seamless transition.
So, what’s changed at Leading Teams in the last 10 years? So much and yet, so little.
From a mechanics point of view, we now have processes for finance, marketing, recruitment and induction and we have an HQ team to deliver on those. We have a structure in place where I am not only an elected member of our leadership team and the owner of a business unit, but I have recently also become an equity partner in the business.
What hasn’t changed – and is also the reason why I’m still here – is the unwavering commitment to our trademark and our drive to be world’s best facilitators.
Our model has stood the test of time, so we continue to find ways to help teams out of strife using the model as our reference point. We also use it to drive our own performance as a team through rigorous reviews and feedback.
Leading Teams has recently grown, with another three facilitators starting with us in the last six months. Kurt, Gavin and Don will reap the benefits of our tightened mechanics, as will we, with three great new recruits who we know are right for our business.
Their biggest learnings though, will no doubt come from the conversations and experiences we provide and challenge them with, and I’m so pleased to be one of those leaders who now gets to share what I was taught 10 years ago.
Teams will continue to find new and interesting problems that need our guidance. And I am in this for the long haul, as long as there are teams and leaders to help.
Here’s to the next 10 years.