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The most successful team I have ever been part of

02/07/2010
tags: ,

I’ve been completing application forms for volunteer opportunities and aside from the fact that they are very long, it struck me that they are almost indistinguishable from job application forms.  It appears charities are becomming fussier about who they will accept as volunteers; and I think this is a good thing.  But that’s for another blog.  What I liked were the thought-provoking questions around successful teams and team dynamcis.

My favourite question asked what was the most successful team I have been part of, why it was successful and what role did I play?  I started to draft an answer around clarity of responsibilities, shared goals, not operating in silos, respect for team members etc. but struggled to think of a professional example that genuinely had all these qualities.

Then I had a bit of a Eureka moment.

Without doubt the most successful team I am, or have ever been part of, is my marriage.  This has nothing to do with my professional life (although a great home life certainly makes work easier) but I was initially shocked at just how many of the same management theory principles apply:

  • There are formal roles and responsibilities (in law, in our vows etc.) and unwritten responsibilities to each other, which we are both aware of and take seriously.  Every so often, it pays our team to remind ourselves what these are so we can re-commit to the other member.  If they are no longer relevant, we change or update them together
  • We both intuitively know what we bring to the team, where our own and each other’s strengths and weaknesses are and when we need to, we step up to redress any resultant deficit
  • When some skill or quality is missing, we talk about it and find a solution
  • Sometimes we spot this ourselves as a team or as individuals and other times, we might need an idea or two from outside (usually parents!) to stimulate new thinking
  • We have open lines of communication operating both ways and not limited by media or hierarchy.  If we need to communicate, we work hard to make sure the opportunity and the wherewithal is there
  • We make sure we have fun
  • We commit to time with and for each other
  • We keep the bigger picture in view and accept that even tougher decisions are manageable if it helps keep us on track to achieve the really important objectives
  • We absolutely know that we are far better and achieve far more of importance as a team than either of us could do as individuals
  • Our team doesn’t exist in isolation.  There are many other teams around us all working towards their own goals but we make sure, by holding on to that bigger picture, we don’t work at cross purposes to other teams.  Eg; the other couples in my (large) family will all have different personal goals but we all work together to ensure no-one goes without, struggles alone or has no-one to celebrate with.

Funny (or is it?) how management theory and professional perceived wisdom can mirror my personal life so much.  What do you think?  What could your work teams learn from your associations and relationships outside of work?

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