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Sunday, 12 December 2010

Captaincy? I Want Eleven Captains on my Team!

The relative gloom engendered by the choice of Russia and Qatar as Football World Cup venues was, for me at least, very quickly dispelled by the excellent showing of the England cricket team in the Second Test at Adelaide.
It was a triumph of teamwork and for the first time for many years, they even outfielded the Australians.  Every member of the team contributed and there is an evident will to win.

I heard Andrew Strauss being interviewed and one of the things he said had a great resonance for me.  He said, when asked about his concept of captaincy:

"I want eleven captains on my team".

He went on to say that, in the end, he makes the final decision but what he is looking for is full input from all members of the team, with almost a requirement that they contribute to the running of the side.

This is a great metaphor for management in general.   Strauss's style echoes that of the companies known as the great engines of growth in Kenneth and Will Hopper's book, The Puritan Gift, (www.puritangift.com) where they emphasise their culture of "bottom up" management as distinct from "top down", which by definition, implies the opinions of one person.

I recall an instance in a previous company which manufactured, among other things, fabrics coated with rubber, both natural and synthetic.  The technical people had designed a product for use in divers wet suits and a small prototype run was being prepared.   One of the machine operatives asked what the product was being used for and on being told, said it wasn't suitable.

Somewhat surprised, the techies asked what evidence did he have to make such a contentious statement and were somewhat taken aback to be told that he was the Secretary of a national sub-aqua organisation, and was probably rated as a world expert in these matters.

The company,very sensibly, accepted his opinion and asked him to act as an internal consultant to the project.

A VIstage speaker once told us that one of the problems in business is that we allow people to turn up at work, hang up their coats, hang up their brains and then go home again at 5.00pm to take up their hobbies, run a youth club, learn a language or generally use their minds to some effect.  The problem is, that in the main, we don't know anything about them other than what they do during working hours.

It is a waste of intellect and exploiting the opportunities, in the most positive way, can materially contribute to the success of the business to the benefit of everyone.

It is more important to develop upwards communication than it is to shout down instructions from the isolation at the top.  Isolation?  Certainly: the people on the shop floor, either actually or metaphorically, know more about what is happening than does the management, and until there is an ethos of openness, there will always be a communication gap.

It isn't about incentives either: it's a matter of encouragement and visibly demonstrating that peoples' opinions are sought, desired and, above all, are valued.

How many captains do you have on your team?

For further information, visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.maa-uk.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk


Mark Mapstone said...

Hey Ivan.

What a fantastic post - I love the example of the operative informing the 'techies' of his 'hobby'. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they heard that!

I also agree with your words from the Vistage speaker. One is so used to keeping work and home life separate, is that the fault of the individual keeping themselves to themselves or the company not showing an interest in anything outside of the role which that person was employed?

I believe both is at fault. From my experience, in a previous company employed for my design skills, my contract included something along the lines of 'anything created in work time, belongs to the company' Ouch! That's great way to kick off a working relationship! Also contracts included caveats about development of any projects with other staff, relating to the company or otherwise, also belonged to the company. Double ouch!

If staff are creative and entrepreneurial within company hours, then wouldn't it be a good idea to nurture, guide and advise them to a point of reward and success for everyone? I think so. Instead employees see a them and us relationship right from the start and establish a mentality of 'clocking on & off' immediately. Not good for all involved.

It really bugs me that out of the full capacity of our brain, we use only a portion of it (I forget how much)- lets say 20%, then an employer will hire based on a skill set which is only a tiny fragment - lets say a generous 5%. What a waste of that individuals potential.

This is what I love about the online world these days, we can all have a voice and a platform to publish our hobbies and interests easily - I believe its up to the leaders to embrace the opportunities within their (cliché warning) four walls and start knocking them down together.

Lots more thoughts of this topic!

All the best - Mark

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