progess is happening

Wow, it’s been an interesting week in the life of my team.

We started the week with some good news – we smashed our performance targets for the last financial year – and some not so good news – a possible new employee that would have added much needed personality traits to the team pulled out of her started job. 
We then had some exciting news about taking on a work experience pupil in late June which gives us the opportunity to plan, create and provide a really positive and meaningful work experience placement for the next generation of the workforce.
We’ve also had the other full time member of the team out of the office all week.
We’ve met a skills and resource gap within the time by commissioning a piece of work for experts in their field, for less than it would have cost for an employee to do it, which is creating a different type of working relationship for me to manage. 
And, we finished the week with the proposed changes to the team being agreed for implementation in 2 weeks time. 
On top of that, we have been delivering our tasks with professionalism, passion and high standards. 
At moments like this, I feel very proud of my team. 
We really are making progress.

The 3 habits of great teams

As part of my inspiration building research into all things SYPartners, one of the videos I found really did connect with me. 

The video by the SYPartners chairman and founder, Keith Yamashita, was 20 minutes of pure gold dust.

In the video – The 3 Habits of Great Creative Teams – shot at the annual 99u Conference [more about them in a later post!] Keith expands on his ‘great teams’ quote by talking about the key elements that make up ‘great teams’. 

Keith Yamashita: The 3 Habits of Great Creative Teams from 99U on Vimeo.

Here’s a summary of the video:

When the your team is faced with adversity does it stand strong and act boldly or does it crumble under pressure? Based on his work with over 1000 teams, Keith Yamashita shares his insights about great collaborative environments including: have an awareness beyond your day-to-day, respect the unique talents of your team members, and actively cultivate meaningful one-on-one relationship

What did I take from the video? 

Increased belief that what I was fighting for was worth it. An even bigger love towards the power of understanding our individual Superpowers [including a massive desire to get a copy of those cards!!]. And a different way of sharing this message with the team. 

So, I sent a link to this video to the members of my team and asked them to watch, to think about the messages in there, and to think about what we need to do differently to become a great team. 

We now had a basis for discussions – both at a team level and at the individual level.

These discussions then led me to an interesting discovery. Although everybody in the team knew that they were part of a small team within a bigger team, when chatting with them, on a one-to-one basis, they all didn’t seem to (a) understand how their role & tasks fitted in with the purpose of the team, and (b) see any connection between their role & tasks and the role & tasks of their peers. 

And that had to change.

So I set about improving that understanding and bringing the different parts of the team together around a shared purpose and vision. And who would have guessed it, there was a new source of inspiration to help me with that. 

This is when I found a new blog of advice, support and ideas for people just a like me – a manager who wants to manage better and make their team better. What was that blog? It was another SYPartners product – called Teamworks.

Find out how I started to use this advice in my next blog.

Great teams understand their individual superpowers

Whilst researching all things SYPartners I stumbled across this quote from their Chairman and founder, Keith Yamashita:

Some of the first actions I took in my transformation of both me and my team were to print this out and stick it on the wall, put it on the agenda of our first team meeting, and work with my team to understand that we needed to learn about and embrace our individual superpowers* if we are going to become a ‘great team’.

* and yes, that did lead to sniggers and jokes involving underpants on the outside of clothes and references to lots of comic book characters! 

This is what we we’re going to work towards.

We were going to understand ourselves better.

We were going to make progress. 

We were going to become a great team.

Making progress to make a difference 

During my last couple of posts – ‘The importance of purpose‘ and ‘Getting unstuck to make progress‘ – I wrote about the time that I lost, & then refound my purpose, and then what helped inspire to get unstuck to make progress.

This post follows on from there.


By using the awesome Unstuck app, I now had a better understanding of what was stopping me, and a set of realistic actions focused on helping me to move forward to achieve my vision of what & who I wanted to be.

I started by setting myself a challenging vision to work towards. Something that would stretch me. Something that was built on my beliefs. Something that could guide me in all my decisions.

This was my vision: 

I will have a positive impact on all the people that I touch in the world – my family, my friends, my colleagues, my local community – and I will leave a dent on the world in the future.
I will set the bar high for everything I do and seek to do life better.
I will transform my team into a great team. I will believe in myself, trust my gut and do things my way.
I will, be me. 

So it was time to put this vision into action. To do, that I needed a plan that I could follow, a plan that will support me to achieve my vision, and a plan that I could deliver.

So I started with the most important action: I had to be a better me. 

Action 1: Become a better me

One of the keys things that I learnt about myself over that winter was how much I didn’t like who I had become at work. I wasn’t enjoying my job. I wasn’t being positive about my work. I wasn’t seeing the difference I was making. I was trying to change myself so that I could to fit into a culture that wasn’t me. I had lost my spark. Simply, I wasn’t being me.

So I started with a simple action – I will be me in everything I do. The way that I work. The way that I lead a team. The way that I manage staff. The way that I engage with people.

Once I set that action into practice, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Me being me wouldn’t fit easily within the culture of the team that I was now part of – but if I wanted that culture to change, I would need to be the culture that I wanted to see.

That then led into my second action: I needed to start crafting and fostering a new culture within my team. 

Action 2: Be the culture I wanted to see

I needed to go back to work and set in place the seedlings of a new culture. A new way of working. A new ethos for the team. 

On the first day back I arranged a team meeting for a couple of weeks time – the first ever team meeting of the team.

Before then though I set in train some key motions. I set individual targets for each members of the team so that we all had to finish pieces of work. I started to analyse whether the tasks that people were doing were related to their strengths and skill sets. I started to think about what the team needed to do differently to become a great team.

For the team meeting I set out a clear agenda for a purposeful meeting. We would have an open and honest conversation about the issues, tensions and conflict within the team. We would talk about our feelings. We would think about our individual and collective strengths and weaknesses. We would look at the threats to the team and better understand the opportunities ahead of us. We would set out high standards for our work. We would set out a clear path forward.

We finished the meeting with a team Swot analysis and the outline off a team work programme. We finished the meeting with two products. We had achieved something. Something to be proud of. Something to celebrate. 

This then led to my third action: I started to celebrate our successes when we achieved them – big or small.  

Action 3: Make and celebrate our progress

For my plan to work we needed some quick wins to start to create an environment of achievement, an environment of delivery, and environment of constantly seeking to move forward.

So we pulled together a list of tasks we could finish easily. Some small. Some big. Some that only we would see. Some that would be seen by others. 

And when we had done them, I started to celebrate them by sharing them via email across the whole team – and sometimes beyond.

I also started to use an approach that Howard Schultz used at Starbucks – I started to sign off those emails with a single word. A word that showed we were moving forward – whether with big steps or small. A word that showed we were constantly improving. 

That word was – progress.

But this was only the end of stage one of achieving my vision. There were many challenges, obstacles, and successes still to come…