You and Your Team

People Together

For the first time this year I’ve been able to spend some time out in the sun. I don’t feel that there is much better than a healthy dose of sun, it gets my mind and body at rest. I use these rare times filtering through the backlog in my mind and start mentally ordering and prioritising. Following on from my previous post (Hello) I’ve recently re-read through the selection of notes I’ve been making over the past years helping me to pick out some of the overriding themes. It comes as no surprise to me at his point in my life and career that the most common themes are that of You and Your Team. I’ll explain what I mean by “no surprise…at this point in my life and career…” later on in this post and I’ll focus specifically on the You part another time. This post as the title suggests will focus on the theme You and Your Team.

You – could be a consultant or freelancer, or a junior team member, anyone through to middle, senior or board team member (etc). The important thing to remember is that whoever you are, you should be part of a team. To some people, that might be a controversial thing to say. I’m not innocent in feeling that controversy, earlier on in my career I made the mistake of believing that I was able to do it all on my own. I was drastically wrong. I quickly learned that there is rarely anything that is worth doing alone. I’m also not innocent in my recent career, if you’re not careful and you don’t always keep in mind the importance of a team, you’ll end up in a tricky situation. I might be being a tad harsh on myself there though. My recent experiences have come about as result of a negative organic process, a set of problems that, had I written this post a few months earlier and reminded myself of my beliefs, I wouldn’t have ever been a part of. However all situations can be learned from and my recent activities have helped with my continued efforts to update my notes, my perceived recent loss is actually mine and your gain!

Let’s move forward, my learnings recently can be summed up nicely by saying simply, I’ve witnessed once more what can happen when the right team isn’t in place. My recent position has been that of a mid-to-senior level manager of an expertise. That means I’ve been in charge of a team, both directly and indirectly, I’ve had a boss and group of people to report to and also been responsible for working with the whole team and being a point of advice and support. As some of you will already know, I don’t heavily believe in day-to-day rigid hierarchy. A company who enforces a hierarchy too strictly always (without fail) ends up being dictatorial, boring, unhappy and unproductive. I don’t mean I’m a person constantly causing anarchy, not at all, but I will stand up for the rights of collaboration and joint effort. I believe in a good business structure. There, of course, needs to be people who are responsible for other people and for the overall business interests, but one huge mistake badly run companies seem to make is forgetting about the expertise and interests of the whole team.

Leaving the bad behind…

An idea, a vision or an inspired thought can start with an individual or a team, but will only sprout into a fully operation situation with a collaborative team effort.

The best projects I’ve been a part of have always had a good team behind them with a good structure. A selection of people with different skills that all help towards the big idea. The team is equally responsible for filtering out slackers and skills that are not quite right for the project, whether they be from more senior or junior members of the team. I’m not promoting a harsh expelling of people unfairly but there are no positives for you or the team including a team member who is not quite in the right place at the right time. An out-of-place team member is an unproductive team member. Don’t be afraid to ask the team member, whether they be junior or senior to you, to find a project that is better suited to them at the time. It’s not often you come across someone who is not mature enough to take a constructive hint and move on, if they can’t – enough said!

A project or a business always needs a leader. Sometimes this is a senior level person, sometimes a junior. If they have the skills, let them do the job! Looking at the successful teams from my past and all of the successful projects out there in the business world, it’s clear to me that the best leaders are those who champion collaboration and a combined force of expertise. These leaders respect who people are and this respect is reciprocated. They stimulate who the team members want to be. They understand that they do not own a person or their skill-sets, so they understand the need to be true to themselves and act in a natural way that makes the team and leaders want to work together. These teams choose each other. Whether your are a the leader or a member of these teams – your opinion is valued equally and will always be welcome, and more importantly your ideas will be discussed and developed regularly. When it comes down to individual skills and assigning the right people to the right parts of the job, these teams share the responsibility of identifying skill-sets. It might happen to be yourself who feels like you have the better skill-set. If this is the case then it’s your duty to demonstrate it productively, effectively, maturely and sociably to the team. It’s equally important though to remember that (quite bluntly) some people will be better than you at some things. You should always strive to assess your skills and compare to the wider team, a group of skills will end up helping you and the project if you utilise them. This analysis will also help with your self-development. The accuracy of the team is without doubt better than the individual, have regular team wide catchups and plan each sprint of a project in advance and be ready to adapt as you go along.

“But what if I’m a freelancer/consultant/sole trader, I don’t really have a team…” – I’ve been guilty of thinking like that myself. One of the biggest mistakes you can make it to believe that, whether you are the freelancer/consultant/sole trader or whether you are the employer. Every project needs a team. You might be able to do a lot of the work on your own initiative but you have to find the team to evolve the project further, hunt for the team, make collaboration natural and easy for everyone and get involved.

Good teams have a good structure and good processes supporting them. There are many forms of structure and process, there are many methodologies and many successes and failures to learn from. In general my favourite teams are those who follow the principles of the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Framework. These may seem focused on digital/software development – however I believe they can be used in all areas of business. There are many other methodologies and frameworks out there, like PRINCE2, Lean or even a more traditional approach. The trick is to find the way that works for the group of people you have. If you don’t get have the team then find a project out there that is most similar to you (but be honest to yourself) and use that structure and methodologies as inspiration.

Whether you are the leader or a member you can champion the principles of a good team to everyone’s benefit!

Right, there you have it, that’s all for this post. I’ve purposefully missed off a talking about leadership, team development, project management and much more – those will be covered in other posts. I hope this post makes sense and helps you – get in touch and lets collaborate!