Tag: Teams

Are you FREe?

Checklists, Front foot, Improvement, Organisations, Reflect, Teams, Think, Values No Comments

Earlier this week I attended a concert at Kings College Chapel. As I sat there in the dark stillness a storm raged outside that rattled the ancient doors as a nearby college clock chimed the hour. I recalled how exactly 27 years before I had first been in that place.

I remembered I had been a little shocked to find myself in higher education – as a working class lad who struggled a fair bit at school. Yet in my mid 20s I had applied to study at tertiary level. When interviewed, some of the alternative angles I shared from my experience as a front line NHS worker, plus the insights from my union activism seemed to appeal to those who selected students.

Over the years I have found sitting in that building to be a powerful place for reflection during times of significant personal change.

So, I was thinking – but on this occasion about my work. My studies all those years ago were the start of my deeper interest in how organisations perform (or don’t). Over the last few months I have been crystallising what I now know about institutions – from larger networks to smaller teams, from commercial enterprises to noble purpose initiatives – based on my experience of working across sectors and continents. What makes an organisation worthy of commitment? What are the features that make them likely to succeed? And fail?

After a quarter of a century, I think there are just three things that are crucial. I summarise these with the word FREe (actually FRE, as you will see below).

Firstly, FOCUS. Is the purpose of the organisation shared? Is the strategy clear – is it understood? Has the governing group set out its intentions (and limitations) for the wider staff to work toward and within? Do individuals know how their particular role contributes – and do they realise where their personal motivations fit, and where they do not?

RESPONSIBILITY: are staff expected to use their initiative to sort out issues? Do they have freedom to act? Do governing boards avoid overstepping the mark and resist micro-managing the executive – and do line-leaders avoid constraining their staff with overly detailed instructions or the expectation of involvement in all decisions? How clearly are all staff held to account for how they have used their autonomy?

Crucially, EXAMPLE highlights the role of senior leaders in setting the cultural tone for an enterprise plus the part played of line managers in re-iterating this – and the importance of peers in reinforcing the ‘right’ behaviours. Most of us are not saints or sinners, rather we absorb the ways others work. This extends from basic ‘pro-social’ interactions to do with decency and civility through to the modelling of focus and responsibility and other important attributes like curiosity. ‘Example’ also concerns how the implied attitudes at the core of a business’s purpose are demonstrated by staff in their dealings with each other as much as with customers: be that caring in the case of health services, learning for an education provider or speed for a high street fashion brand, for example.

I am discovering how this simple framework is powerful in a range of settings.

It helps individuals: it is useful in ways from coaching leaders through to prompting those being interviewed for new jobs to ask useful (and interesting) questions.

With teams it is a checklist to test that the platform for achieving positive results is in place.

For organisations it highlights three important factors to work to get right in all places – to ensure well-served customers, content staff and a fulfilled mission.

Are you ready for FREe business?

Tags: , , , ,

NPO – the upside

Noble Purpose No Comments

Whilst there can be disillusionment and burnout and pain in Noble Purpose Organisations, I have had two conversations just this week that illustrate the potential, the upsides too.

One friend has recently joined a national mental health charity. She is hugely impressed with the systems and procedures so everyone knows what is expected of them. Some of the features she has experienced in other NPO jobs (eg ignored poor performance, erratic sickness leave) are clearly checked. She is happy, and reports her colleagues are, despite their pressured jobs.

I met someone else a couple of days ago. A nurse, nearing 60, working part time on a busy ward in a teaching hospital. She is independently wealthy and has many other interets, but is not planning to retire. Why? She loves the work and the patients (the purpose). And critically, I think, because she has fantastic colleagues on the same ward every time. They support each other to do the right thing in frequently trying circumstances.

This links to the “NPO A list” (see next time).

Tags: ,

Watching for you team mates?

Front foot No Comments

I ran the local Chariots of Fire race earlier this week – as part of two teams of neighbours.

I enjoy running now – as a way of getting out and about, from a brisk way to start the day on a cold winter morning at home to a means of seeing somewhere at dawn where I am staying when working away.

When at school I couldn’t quite get the hang of it: I would start fast, and run out of steam, with a stitch after a few hundred metres. I ended up getting to a point where I thought “I can’t run”.

A few things got me going with, and enjoying, running in midlife – things that illustrate some of the Front Foot principles (such as personal goals and persistence) –and especially the importance of other people and practice in helping us on our way:
1) A mate who encouraged me – and pointed out I should calculate and not exceed a certain heart rate if I wanted to be able to keep going
2) Personal practice – getting my technique (breathing and stride) right, informed partly by the book “Born to Run”
3) Team spirit – this was key in a competitive race, that I would never have tried a few years ago.

The importance of the team (co-ordination in the front foot framework) was bought home to me when I was waiting in the pack of other runners to pick up the baton for the second leg from my team mate. A very fast, veteran runner arrived early, but couldn’t find his team member. His desperation as he walked up and down the sea of expectant faces was palpable – as he, with increasing panic and frustration, called for his team number. Eventually (after a good minute) they found each other. The relief (and irritation) was evident. As a team they still did well (much better than us!) – but I can imagine they didn’t enjoy the post race reflection quite as much as we did.

Who do you need to watch out for today? Who could you encourage? What do you need to work to perfect yourself?


Learning from success…from skill and style to strength and stamina…through the team

Front foot, Teams No Comments

Well, what can we learn from Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon – and the renewal of his reputation over the last few years?

1) He had a natural talent and temperament – but that wasn’t enough.

2) He kept trying – determination and a desire to win shone though (though he seemed diffident early on once he withdrew a bit, after early brushes with a carnivorous media)

3) He didn’t let the early tragedy and trauma in his life hold him back – maybe it was a driver? Or maybe well dealt with?

4) He surrounds himself with good people – from family and long standing friends to a team of specialist to increase his fitness, focus and popularity.

5) He has taken his natural skill and added personal training to create supreme physical fitness, to boost that talent with strength and stamina.

6) He has added PR advice – to secure the right interviews, documentaries, appearances, photo shoots.

7) He chose a new coach who knows all too well the journey and who through this empathy and reputation has helped rein in his negative emotions.

8) He can play the inner game as well as the physical one – and he has learnt to do that, it wasn’t there innately, as it isn’t for most of us.

9) He has shown you can turn around your public persona and popularity – he is now a national treasure (and actually was a year ago, after sharing his emotions and thoughts on failure in the speeches on centre court). Like Camilla and David Beckham before him, he shows you can change how others see you.

10) The relationships between the on court competitors is cordial, warm and respectful , after years on the circuit together – a nice illustration of the ideal balance between collaboration and competition in many industries.

Which do you think is the most important? I am not sure…like success in many sports lots of little changes can amount to a breakthrough – actually by being just slightly better than your opponent is enough (a shot here, a second there). But, if I had to choose one, it would be 4 – the team – as they has helped with most of the others (especially 5-9).

Tags: ,

Agreeing an overriding committment

Reflect No Comments

In the work of Patrick Lencioni on teams there is the challenge to agree an overriding commitment to a single, shared result within a team – a result that guides all actions and choices.

The most powerful example of this in action?

We think the response of Wal-mart colleagues centrally and locally to the 2005 flood of New Orleans.

This is an example of responsible autonomy in action too – around the guiding principle of “do all you can to help”. Read more here.

Tags: , ,

Lessons from…U2!

Front foot No Comments

I have just finished watching a recorded documentary on U2 prior to their Glastonbury performance this year.  There were a number of strong themes that I hadn’t expected – and that link to ideas around front foot teams!

In 1990 when they went to Berlin to try and re-invent their act, things were hard, but

a) They stuck with it – risking losing what they had to make the journey to the next phase

b) They were honest with each other – about their individual as well as shared struggles

c) They cared for each other – “if one person is unhappy we need to care for them until they are happy again, otherwise we are not, as it says, a band” …  we lift the one who is struggling, up”

d) They have been hugely loyal over the years to the wider team of engineers, producers, designers – giving others a chance to develop and grow, and drawing on their skills too.

Inspiration from an unlikely quarter!


Phil's Blog

Sign up for Phil’s regular blog.

Email: phil.hadridge@idenk.com