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                                  One-man-band or Orchestra

Greetings dear friends & welcome to my world again this week. Either on a talent show I suspect everyone has seen on television, or a street corner, you have probably seen a one-man band. These street performers are entertaining, amusing, & impressive.  They make their money from passers-by who drop a couple of dollars into their banjo case lying on the ground. I guessing the average person listens to a one-man band 3 or 4 minutes before moving on. 

Contrast the one-man band to experiencing a concert with the NZ Symphony Orchestra.  People will pay hundreds of dollars to come and sit in a concert hall, not just for 3 or 4 minutes, but for a couple of hours.  The audience will be enthralled as the orchestra plays some of the great masterpieces of music ever written. Where the street performer is amusing & entertaining, the symphony orchestra is inspiring & moving.

The symphony (unlike the one-man band) is a wonderful picture of a team.  The orchestra is filled with a wide variety of talented musicians who each bring a unique skill to the team. Every person is absolutely clear about their position & what part they are to play. The orchestra wins or loses as a group. The critics will review the overall concert, not the performance of a single cello. They are led by a conductor who knows how to bring out the best in each person. The conductor also expertly coordinates all the sections so there is a flowing, seamless musical experience. It is significant the audience mostly sees the back of the conductor.  The conductor has a job which is to keep his eye on his team, not on the crowd.  

Last year I saw another quite different, but powerful, picture of “team”.  It was from the Tasman Mako. This show over 12~13 weeks is a competition about very fit athletes who must navigate a challenging obstacle course, & they must do it as a team. First game this year, Saturday September 12th.

As I reflected on most of the games I watched all around the country last year, there are several elements making this such a great case study in “team”.

They have a clear objective.  Everyone on the team knows what “the win” is. There is a finish line.

They have to work together. Most of the obstacles require collaboration & dependence on other teammates to successfully overcome their obstacle. 

They win or lose as a team. There are no individual honours or trophies.  In one game one of the players received a rather serious injury which took him out for the rest of the season.  For the rest of the year his teammates included him to provide extra support. And, when these teams cross the finish line, they celebrate together.  There were a lot of group hugs at the finish line. 

They cheer each other on all along the way. In the midst of the gruelling physical challenges, words of affirmation & encouragement flow freely.  You regularly hear the phrase “you can do this”.

They are better together. As a team they were more than just the sum of the individual parts. There was a dynamic synergy created because they were part of a team. At the end of the season, even when they were totally exhausted, they kept pushing ahead because they were part of a team was counting on them.  [1]

Now I know that winning in business is quite different.  Defining the win can be fuzzier & the obstacles are less tangible.  And, we are in the people business, which is way messier than any mud crawl.  But the principles of great teamwork still apply.

Whether you are leading a team or you are a member of a team, you must keep your eye on the bullseye of health & productivity. 

I know that the topic of team health is about as sexy as the concrete foundation under your house.  But, just like your house foundation, it is absolutely vital.  And team health is hard to quantify & measure.  It is sort of like trying to measure whether or not you are doing an effective job of raising healthy children.  Just like each child is different, every team is different & there is no formula for establishing health. 

When it comes to your physical health, there are very clear markers to provide a sense of how healthy you are.  Things like blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, blood sugar & heart rate all help in assessing the health of our bodies.

Similarly, there are markers of an organization & team’s health. A few possible markers of team health include: enthusiasm, minimal turnover, good communication, a sense of community & family, minimal politics, personal care and support, people enjoy each other and like to be together, laughter, celebrations, sustainable pace and rhythm, resolve conflict well, unity, minimal gossip, growth plans for team members, & humility.

Before you leave this article after reading it, I want to challenge you to grab a pen & a piece of paper.  Of all the health objectives listed above, write down those most true of the team (volunteer or paid) you work with.  Next, write down the 3 which could use some improvement.  You might want to do this exercise with your team & have a discussion about the health of your team. Hopefully this post Covid era is a good time to be doing so, as I am sure our Mako boys are doing as I type…

I hope my comments each week are helpful dear readers; & again, provide just an opinion, from my world. Thank you for taking the time to be with me, I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson. With my best wishes, I look forward to connecting with you again soon.
[1] Lance Witt an author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live & lead from a healthy soul. 

Kenn Butler
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