Navigating the creation of a team culture.

Navigating change in life and organisations is akin to a managing a game of football – it’s ever-present and constantly evolving.

The best strategy, I have personally found is to adopt a “people first” approach.

Understanding the emotions of the team is a key part of this approach. Change can often stir up feelings of uncertainty, akin to the nerves before a big match. To address this, the focus is on understanding and dealing with these emotions, ensuring that the team feels heard and supported. This is done by promoting open lines of communication providing everyone a chance to voice their concerns.

Involvement is crucial, as in a game where every player gets a touch of the ball. People are more likely to accept change when they’re part of the decision-making process. To ensure this, the team is kept in the loop about what changes are being made, why they’re necessary, and how it might affect the game plan. This is ok but when change involves new strategies, techniques, or tools, it’s crucial to provide training and support, much like a coach would during a training session. This involves offering resources like workshops, training sessions, or even one-on-one coaching to help people adjust. A good coach recognises and rewards good performance on the field and positive reinforcement can greatly facilitate change. This could involve recognising those who are adapting well to the changes or providing incentives – akin to the ‘man of the match’ award – to encourage others to embrace the change by adopting the correct attitudes and behaviours both during matches and also in the run up to a high performance time frame.

Maintaining transparency is akin to having a clear and concise playbook. People tend to trust and accept changes more readily when they understand the strategy and the game plan. This involves being honest about the challenges and potential downsides, as well as communicating the expected benefits. In return for this honesty you will find that it create a culture of flexibility and adaptability which in turn will enable a team that can adjust to any opponent. By fostering an organisational culture that values learning, growth, and adaptability, the aim is to cultivate a mindset where change is seen as an opportunity for improvement, rather than a threat.

Implementing a “people first” approach in both team management and personal development improves the effectiveness of the team and the growth of the individuals within it. Building trust, similar to a reliable goalkeeper whom the team knows will always save the day at some point in the season, creating an environment where team members feel safe to express their thoughts and concerns ensures that a transparent and open communication culture is fostered across all elements of the team and associated staff. By involving team members in decision-making processes, diversity of ideas and perspectives is encouraged, giving team members a sense of ownership and commitment to the team’s goals and add this to the transparent nature of communication builds a self-demanding functional team mentality that will support and drive itself to new goals.

Creating a supportive environment is like being the physiotherapist who’s there to help when a player gets injured. Recognising the challenges and conflicts that teams face, the aim is to create an environment where team members feel supported during these times, providing resources to overcome challenges and acknowledging the emotional impact of tough games. Coupled with understanding an individual’s personal goals and values greatly enhances personal development, much like knowing a player’s preferred position and style of play. This understanding guides the development of a personal growth plan that aligns with these goals and values.

Regular, constructive feedback is akin to a coach reviewing game footage with a player. It allows individuals to understand their strengths and areas for improvement, and to track their progress over time. Support can come in the form of resources, mentoring, or simply encouragement and recognition plus it greatly reduces the fear element that is often associated with external critique. Encouraging self-reflection is like prompting players to think about their performance in a game. Individuals can be encouraged to reflect on their experiences, their reactions, and their learning, which can lead to deeper self-understanding and growth.

Personal development isn’t just about honing skills on the pitch. It also involves personal well-being and maintaining a balance between the sport and life outside of it. The importance of downtime, hobbies, and personal relationships is recognised in supporting overall personal growth and should be encouraged to be part of the sharing process that builds a great atmosphere within the team. What is often overlooked when individual team members do not want to share feeling and personal experiences is the ability to still include these individuals within the team culture. Just because you don’t like football shouldn’t mean exclusion from the narrative. Good managers foster involvement on many levels and good managers should always have an interest in the personal plights of their teams.

This leads nicely into advocacy for the creation of Personal Development Plans (PDPs), much like a training regimen tailored for each player. These help individuals set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals, and monitor their progress towards these goals. They should be “Real” plans not something that you feel as someone’s manager that they should be undertaking to improve themselves. If they feel that it is important, they will achieve their own goals and your goals that you might have set them.

In summary, applying the “people first” approach is like adopting a team-first mentality in football. By focusing on the needs and experiences of the people involved, it is believed that change can be navigated more effectively, and a supportive, collaborative, culture can be fostered. Be genuine, be honest and your team will thank you for it.

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