EngagementOne team together

One team together

Creating a culture where no individual takes the credit or shoulders the blame.

It’s exhilarating being part of a successful team who enjoy celebrating wins together. However, the true test of teamship is perhaps at the lowest ebb when an organisation is faced by adversity and the pressure gauge goes up. This is when you get a true reflection of the leadership culture.

Blame cultures exist in places where there are very transient mindsets. Often, people in roles of seniority believe they handle pressure well and yet when they face criticism they can become quite mercurial and pin the blame on others. At some point in our careers, we’ve all worked with a ‘Teflon’ character, who seamlessly deflects responsibility, particularly when the stakes are high.

Resisting the easy option

I often turn to military philosophies that are helpful to weave into my understanding of what great leadership looks like. The Royal Marines’ Ethos upholds Individual Commando Spirit and Collective Group Values. There is a clear focus on self discipline and resisting the easy option as it can be tempting to pin the blame elsewhere. In essence, blame cultures strip places of humility, which destroys the fabric of the culture and breeds negativity. And boy does it spread in a parasitical way.

Know your team

The leader’s capacity to know their team remains the foundation of a healthy dynamic as this means understanding how each individual will respond to an approach. While some may react well to direct challenge in an open forum, the same approach may crush another and undermine their confidence. It is the leader’s lifelong goal to understand the intricacies of how each person operates and what motivates and inspires them.

Fun… at whose expense?

Humour is also an interesting aspect of leadership. Strong team morale is often underpinned by the ability to make light of something (when it’s appropriate) as a reminder that working really hard is important but so is having fun. Manipulative leaders or team members might use humour divisively to put others down and reinforce power dynamics, so it’s important to be vigilant about how people engage with humour.

Managing mavericks

Bill Walsh talks about ‘A big cheer for a big ego’ in his leadership philosophy, acknowledging that a big ego can be a powerful engine within an organisation. It’s true that egos can generate great confidence in a team and be a positive influence, provided they understand their place in the team.

An example of this is Eric Cantona – a player with a huge personality who had great potential to influence others. Some might be wary of mavericks within teams and there is no doubt that sensitive management is necessary in order to maintain the magic, without derailing the team dynamics.

The selflessness of teamship

Understanding growth mindset is pivotal in team development. High performance cultures recognise that people under pressure sometimes want to press the default button. The absence of a blame culture actually takes that tendency away as people within the team come from a place of trust, not fear, and realise that mistakes are simply learning opportunities.

In truth there is a selflessness to teamship. While we respect and value the personal contributions made by individuals, the team is, by definition, the sum of all parts. In a team that is thriving teachers and students are interchangeable as there is recognition that no single person is infallible or all-knowing. This mutual trust and respect is fundamental as it allows everyone to express themselves fully, while recognising that there is a single vision and that every action taken is for the good of the team.

For more information contact pete@first-team.net

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