CREATING TEAM CULTURE: OWNERSHIP, HUMILITY & WE

Lightning Lab aims to build resilient founders and, with it, resilient businesses. To help the Programme Director and Manager with this, ventures have access to a great support network. One part of this network is the availability of team and Chief Executive (CE) coaching.

We caught up with two of our coaches, Madeleine Taylor and Stuart Low who are helping some of our Lightning Lab Electric teams navigate the ups-and-downs of building a business. They work with the teams on the importance of teamwork and leadership when building businesses from the ground up.

Madeline has over 15 years experience honing team interaction skills across enterprise, government and not for profits, she is coach to LLE venture Ampli. Our other coach, Stuart draws on over ten years experience as both an Executive Coach and a General Manager in Human Resource-related positions to provide CE coaching to Paul from Polanyio.

What are the benefits to a company for all team members to feel ownership?

MT: If all team members in a company have ownership of the purpose and the way a business wants to work then there is increased ability to achieve the desired outputs. A metaphor I like is being a paddler on a waka. If all the crew are paddling at the same time and in the same direction and to the same beat then the team will get to its destination sooner.

The lesson here is that the benefits for a company need to be felt by all in the team – so if recognition is not given then that synergy may not happen again and again. For small ventures, the investing partners need to be aware of this to ensure motivation in the long run.

SL: The perspectives and attitudes that each person brings into the workplace will vary according to the environment they are accustomed to, the experiences they have and the experiences they will have. These factors make us all different. In order to bring cohesion into the workplace, teams need to agree on the values that they will abide by in their work. These usually include variants on the themes of honesty, courtesy, accountability, teamwork, client focus. If the team can agree on these things, they are more likely to feel a sense of community, shared responsibility and a communal investment in the success of the enterprise. This is a form of ownership. It is hard to imagine an organisation being successful without this communal approach.

How does humility in leadership play a part?

MT: I like the idea of Robert K. Greenleaf’s phrase “servant leadership” where leadership focus is on the needs of others, especially team members, before considering your own. You acknowledge other people’s perspectives, give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions where appropriate and build a sense of community within your team. This leads to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders. It can also lead to increased innovation.

10 CHARACTERISTICS OF SERVANT LEADERS:

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualisation
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of people
  10. Building community

You cannot do this without humility.

SL: There is a strong body of evidence that organisations led by people who exhibit modesty (“humility” if you like) are more likely to be successful than others. This is because leaders who exhibit humility are more likely to consider the needs and attitudes of their staff and are more likely to consult them on matters which affect them. Four of the more powerful words a leader can use are “What do you think?”. This question helps staff to feel heard, to feel valued, to feel part of the team to feel ownership of what they do. Leaders who simply tell their staff “how it’s going to be” risk creating a sense of not belonging, of being merely a cog in the wheel, of having no ownership.

What effect does building team culture have on venture success?

MT: Creating a team culture helps to do two things:

  1. Create certainty. It is a clear contract with all members of the team that outlines expectations of behaviour and mores of the team. Culture is “how we do things around here” and mostly is not spoken about but underlies all communication and expectations of “how” the team works together. Most of us have a way of working that suits us (“my way”) so when we come together we have to agree on “our way”. This “way” needs to take all those on the team into account. Being able to articulate this culture and to draw on the ensuing rules helps the team.
  2. The culture needs to be a culture that helps individuals to be the best they can be – by managing psychological safety, dependability, clarity about what people are there to do and their role in it, being comfortable with the ethics of the business and being sure that what the business does helps humanity in some way.

SL: The most powerful word generated by a team culture is the word “we”. A team culture encourages a shared responsibility for what we do and for how we do it. It encourages consideration of others, it encourages seeking out and listening to the views and ideas of other members of the team, it encourages questioning, it makes room for diversity of ideas and approaches. What could be more important for generating success?

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