“We All Stand Together” (Bomp, bomp)

19/10/2011

By James Butler, Your Business Your Future tutor and coach

One of the greatest songwriters of all time, Sir Paul McCartney, got married again in October 2011. I doubt that his early 80s hit “We All Stand Together” featured on the playlist at the reception! In fact, some would argue that it stands testament to the descent of game-changing talent to Christmas pop mediocrity. Instead of getting into that debate, for this article, I want to focus on the lyrics, and what they tell us about organisational success.

Win or lose, sink or swim
One thing is certain we’ll never give in
Side by side, hand in hand

We all stand together
(Can you hear the frogs going “bomp, bomp”?)

Whilst one of the Seven Pillars of a Better Business is “It’s up to you” as the owner manager, another is that, to build a better business, you need to “Build a Better Team”.

For me, this belief has been fuelled by my very recent involvement with the fourth Choko Beer Festival – an event that has almost doubled its turnover in four years, has raised thousands for local causes and for Choko, and has become a firm feature of the South Oxfordshire calendar. Part of its popularity is that it’s one of the few days of the year where drinking and having a good time is a good thing – because it is all for charity!

The event is a huge logistical effort – requiring the services of over 50 volunteers over several days to arrange pre-publicity, set up the venue, ensure security, staff the festival on the day and then clear up afterwards. No-one gets paid, yet everyone is motivated to do their bit (and often more than their bit). So, if it isn’t personal financial reward that drives people to do so much, what is it?

Common purpose – there is widespread evidence that teams perform better when they share a goal which they all believe in. Whether a business team trying to deliver a large project, a medical team trying to save a patient’s life, or a sports team looking to win a championship (or not to come last in a championship if it’s a Scottish rugby squad!) they will perform better when everyone knows why they are there, and what they are working collectively towards. What is your team working towards, and does everyone know?

Appreciation – with so many small cogs being essential to the working of the whole, it can become hard for an individual to feel noticed or appreciated, so the Beer Festival committee work hard to ensure they regularly and repeatedly express gratitude for the effort people put in. It’s because this appreciation is shown throughout the event that people are happy to step up and do extra shifts, run errands at short notice, and get up on a Sunday morning to pick up cigarette butts by hand. How do you show genuine gratitude for the contribution your colleagues make?

Understand each other – many of the volunteers in the Beer Festival team have travelled together, to see the projects we fund in South Africa. Others have many connections with shared interests in a small community. As a result, they seem to have developed a tolerance for their individual foibles – they know who needs clear instructions and lots of information, who is less interested in detail and is able to see the bigger picture, and who runs round looking frantic and generally bumbles through (that’ll be me!). That understanding seems to foster greater flexibility in how they achieve what they want. Do you understand the people in your team? Do you know what is important to them?

Healthy emotional bank accounts – Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People talked about the idea of emotional bank accounts. In any relationship, we make deposits and withdrawals against people’s trust, support and engagement with us. Missing an appointment might be a withdrawal, staying late to help a colleague might be a deposit. If you want to be able to draw on people at short notice, ask for special favours, or stretch them to perform at their best, this is easier if you’ve been making deposits beforehand – building up their trust and the relationship you have with them. For example, the Beer Festival committee write to all the neighbours every year to thank them for their support and understanding – which makes them more tolerant of the noise and the parking congestion.
What are your emotional bank balances with the people in your team? Are you making deposits or withdrawals?

For me, helping with the Beer Festival is an exhausting and hugely personally fulfilling few weeks - it’s a big part of my personal “Me” theme. For you, I hope it will be a useful reminder of how you can get the most of the people you work with. It’s not about beating them with sticks, or even of tempting them with carrots. It’s about sharing a common purpose, showing genuine appreciation, understanding each other and ensuring your relationship bank account is suitably in credit – then you will all stand together. (Bomp, bomp)

For those who have no clue what the bomps refer to, please go here.