As part of a Leadership Team Coaching programme that I am doing at present, we were asked to think of the best and the worst teams we have ever been a part of. (This is relevant to Shifting Stories, if you read to the end…)
The worst team was the easiest for me to identify, having relatively recently been kicked off a leadership team of a voluntary organisation for raising questions about how we worked, by an unjust and abusive process (I was told I was subject of a serious complaint, and had been found guilty before the investigation was undertaken, and that verdict was not revised when it emerged someone else had done the action of which I had been accused…). But I found it much harder to identify the best team I had worked in.
That’s mainly because I have been running my own business for the last thirty-plus years; along the way I have been a member of some successful project teams, but they were very much small task groups, rather than leadership teams. Initially, I resorted to thinking about a team I had been part of on an Outward Bound-style leadership programme some 35 years ago. There we had developed a high-performing team over an intensive week, with real ups and downs that still live with me, and I learned a lot.
And then I spoke to Jane, my wife (I had considered me and Jane as a team to analyse, as we run the business together, but it seemed too small, and didn’t speak to many of the questions we had been asked to consider). I should, of course, have consulted her earlier, as she is always perceptive and wise on these issues. And so she was this time: she said ‘What about the Jesmond Pool Trustees? They were a good team.’ And of course, she was right.
Jesmond Swimming Pool had been closed by Newcastle City Council in 1991, and local residents set up an organisation to organise its reopening and running independently of the Council. This became a charitable limited company, and I was one of the Trustees and Directors from 1991 until
we moved to the Lake District in 2005. The Trustees were an effective team, who developed a successful community resource and have sustained and developed it successfully for two decades. I was privileged to be a part of it.
And why it’s relevant to this blog is that Jane’s reminding me of it helped me to re-write a significant story about myself. I had been thinking that the nature of my work meant that I had missed out on the opportunity to experience significant team membership. That story is now over-written with a much more helpful one: that I have been part of a high-performing leadership team, that accomplished something that many thought impossible, and continued to be highly successful. And that’s a helpful story, as re-visiting that team with the benefit
of hindsight provides me with a lot of learning: clearly we got a lot right, and the more I learn about team leadership and team coaching, the clearer that is. Clearly, also, we were not a perfect team, and that too is helpful to analyse. Of course, I could learn about and understand leadership team functioning without that experience to draw on; but learning related to real experience is always more powerful, more grounded and more accessible, so this new story of myself, as having significant experience as a member of a successful leadership team, is very valuable.