With all the wisdom of his years and vast experience, Shane Warne recently admonished Australia for being too politically correct. He feels that Aussies have lost the true spirit of being fair dinkum and honest about their feelings in case there is some backlash.
Maybe there is some truth in what he says. I have experienced in some areas the need to tick boxes and a return to rigidity. I am feeling quite sad about a large company with which I am familiar. I once perceived it as having one of the best cultures I had experienced. Everybody enjoyed going to work and because of the positive culture, they worked well and successfully as a team on projects that were often challenging. Support and encouragement were the mainstays of the company with incentives that made it all worthwhile. Individual differences were acknowledged and embraced, resulting in a culture where people felt safe and whilst productive work was never compromised, humour was encouraged. It was a delightful place to work. So what has changed? A new regime has invaded the company as some of the outstanding leaders have retired or moved on. It has happened so quickly that those who have remained in the company are left scratching their heads and many are now looking to exit a company they thought they would be part of for many years. Policies and strategies are the buzz words and relationship building with clients no longer seems to be the focus.
In my work with Human Synergistics, it has been acknowledged that an injection of aggressive behaviour can result in swift and powerful results. Yes, productivity can go up and on paper this looks really good, but it is short lived and in my experience, trust is destroyed. It is such a vital element for any team to develop trust.
An inspiring CEO mentioned an amazing book to me called “The Boys in the Boat”, by Daniel James Brown. It is the extraordinary tale of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar varsity crew beating the odds and their demons to win the gold medal in the Berlin Olympics. Not only is it a riveting story, it is a great metaphor for all teams whether business or sporting. When trust is lost, the team flounders and it is trust that is the key to effective, sustained performance.
I intend to use this book to match what is happening in some organisations. It highlights so beautifully all of the values and processes we eschew when we use the Human Synergistic approach which I have always found to be so powerful. The analogies strongly illustrate the successful melding of the Achievement, Self Actualising, Humanistic Encouraging and Affiliative styles.
When the ‘straight eight’ team worked together well, they were able to completely trust that each member would do whatever they needed to do. George Yeoman Pocock, a leading designer and developer of racing shells has made some valuable observations that are relevant to any team. I like this one, “Where is the spiritual value of rowing? … The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole.”
This sort of unity and trust is what makes teams great and I am pretty certain it doesn’t come about without a great deal of relationship building which suffers when there is over emphasis of task over people – often resulting in power struggles and stress.
This kind of trust didn’t happen overnight. It took a great deal of relationship building, really understanding where each individual was coming from. It is a wonderful story which has inspired me to never give up on my passion of working with teams to establish productive relationships based on trust -rowing in beautiful unison as a ‘straight eight’ team.