Monday, April 07, 2008

Wise Words - The Real Value of Team Spirit

Read this article printed in Design Week, if you manage a team. Phil Jones was my ex-boss and he was a truely inspirational leader that knows how to get the most from a team and motivate people.

The real value of team spirit
With the Champions League reaching its final stages, England have a record four clubs in the last eight. The headlines will single out Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, Emmanuel Adebayor et al, but the top managers know it is players like Owen Hargreaves, Claude Makélélé, Mathieu Flamini and Jamie Carragher who often decide the outcome. Building a winning team takes a skilled manager who values the word 'for' as much as the word 'in'.

Being the best for the team - rather than best in the team - can often be even more valuable. All of the players mentioned fit that category, and so do many staff working in design groups. And the shame is they often never get to fulfil their full potential because they go unnoticed by managers too focused on today's requirements. The best managers spot and encourage natural strengths to come to the fore and allow individuals to fly.

It snowed in Lincolnshire over Easter so I watched plenty of TV and I saw three of my ex-employees excelling at something they loved. Thomasina won Masterchef and was launching her new TV series, Stuart was the judge who chose the winning dog at Crufts and Ray appeared on Mastermind. Most people have hidden talents.

Many more of my staff have surprised and delighted me over the years where I took pleasure creating roles around interesting people rather than employing for specific job descriptions.

As a consultant or mentor I rarely have the pleasure of employing and managing teams these days, but I do try to remind the directors I work with that they each have unique strengths and help them to recognise potentially hidden strengths in their existing teams before looking externally.

The highly rated Gallup Q12 report highlights that giving a person appropriate recognition needs to happen in a normal seven-day period. The most recent research illustrates that this releases dopamine, the body's natural drug that gives us that 'feel-good' sensation. In fact, we humans are dopamine addicts, and it costs nothing.

The report focuses on other key actions that need to be factored in by the manager, including promoting people at the right time. This can make a real difference to consultancy morale, save thousands of pounds in recruitment fees and have a dramatic impact on productivity, customer satisfaction and profitability.

Harry Truman once said, 'You can achieve almost anything in life if you are prepared not to take the credit.' Having taken a company through two mergers it gave me the opportunity to see different management styles in action (good and bad). I definitely agree with Mr T. Sadly, I saw several of my most talented people move on when they no longer experienced the feeling of 'being valued'. They have all been very successful, both financially and career-wise, but often comment that they have never been as happy as they were feeling part of a team that allowed each individual to play to their strengths and where credit was given to everyone in the team on a regular basis.

Another recent Gallup Panel survey (December 2007) asked a targeted sample of job-seekers about what is most important to them in job searches. Top of the list is the potential for career development and the quality of management. Gallup tell us that 70 per cent of people leave managers, not companies. But, deep down, we already know that - it's common sense after all.

Also high on the wish list is getting the work-life balance right and it was seen to be important that the company was a 'fun place to work'. For the staff to enjoy these benefits the directors need to take a 'helicopter view'.

In the face of a looming recession, making your staff feel valued is more vital than ever. If you are too busy to spend time with them, remember the story of the two woodcutters. Seeing them struggling, a passer-by suggested they stop and sharpen the saw. 'We don't have time,' came the reply.

Make the time to sharpen the saw, focus on the things that will make the big difference - they are probably already working for you.

Phil Jones is managing director of Real Time Consultancy.

Exploiting hidden strengths
• Create roles around interesting people
• Give appropriate recognition for success within a week
• Promote people at the right time
• Make your company a fun place to work
• Encourage natural strengths and allow individuals to 'fly'

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