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Archive for category: Team Building

Bricks and the City – Don’t be an Ass!

Bricks and the City – Don’t be an Ass!

First of all, I’m not calling you names, honest! The Ass in the title is linked to the word Assumptions.

Unlike a lot of other industries, for the majority of new projects we get involved in there is a new team. A new ‘cast of characters’ coming together to build something new or refurbish existing or whatever it is the scope of work entails.

Before we even meet each other we can make assumptions and a lot of this goes back to the boxes we have been put in and how we may have been conditioned to think. First of all, take the Client for example. We are working towards a common goal to deliver the project for the Client but how often do we make the assumption that we can’t say what he/she doesn’t want to hear for fear of upsetting them and not being given future projects? This, I feel is particularly prevalent in the current economic climate where there is a lot of competition and firms are focused on maintaining Client relationships to get repeat business.

We then have the assumptions we make about each other in the industry. Client Quantity Surveyors shouldn’t trust a Contractor’s Quantity Surveyor for fear they may fleece you. Better keep an eye on the Contractor in case he pulls a fast one and cuts some corners with the specification. Structural Engineers over design everything and PM’s are purely there to delegate and don’t like to role their sleeves up, Architects have expensive taste and can sometimes have a tendency to over specify. I know I’m being general but it is my perception that there can be a tendency to think in herds and to link certain behaviours with people’s roles rather then look at each person individually.

Having assumptions such as these can create a culture of mistrust before a project has even begun. As an industry I also think we can be influenced by other people’s experiences and let these cloud our perception of individuals based on other people’s judgement. How often have you had a conversation with someone and you may have mentioned that you’re about to work with a certain organisation or individual and a negative comment has come back? This may stay in the back of your mind when you meet the person for the first time, something which I have been guilty of myself.

Have you ever heard of the saying, ‘What the thinker thinks, the prover proves’? Whatever your belief is, you will look for proof to support it. This links with the Reticular Activating System (RAS)

At the base of the brain, where it connects with the spinal cord is a region called the Reticular Activating System. The RAS acts like a filter deciding which thoughts to focus on at any one time which is crucial given the millions of pieces of information subconsciously flowing through the brain. The RAS decides which messages will arrive at the brain and when it gets past the filter it can turn into conscious thought, emotions or both, essentially your RAS is the proof seeker.

So you may have been influenced by someone else’s opinion and then the RAS filters the proof to support it. Can you think of any occasions where this has happened? How different could team relationships be without making assumptions?

I heard this saying recently, ‘WHEN YOU ASSUME YOU MAKE AN ASS OUT OF U AND ME’

I’m going to try really hard in future not to be an ass!!

Bricks and the City – From Going for Gold to a Poultry Farm!

Bricks and the City – From Going for Gold to a Poultry Farm!

I recently attended a really good Association for Coaching CPD event in deepest, darkest Coalville with Di Horsley who shared her experience and knowledge of high performing sports coaching and how that links into the corporate world.  More about the poultry farm later…………..!

Di talked about the evolution of sport in the UK in general and also specifically about the British Cycling team and the culture change brought about by their Performance Director, Sir (as I believe he is now!) Dave Brailsford.  It starts with a vision , the cyclists were asked what their vision was for the future and also for the team collectively.  I was also interested in hearing how different goals are targeted at different levels, so it’s not just about having one goal, each goal is broken down into individual process goals and targets so if you achieve that, then you’re on your way to achieving your overall goal.

We did an exercise to identify what characteristics and behaviours are required in a high performing team, the following were some of the ones we came up with:-

  • A Compelling Vision that everyone believes in
  • Openness
  • Self awareness and awareness of others
  • Being aware of each others strengths and weaknesses
  • Focus
  • Drive
  • Discipline
  • Trust
  • Leadership

Lets go back to the Vision part.  I think this is what really makes a team a team and distinguishes them from a group of people with similar interests.  Does this strike a chord with anyone?  How many people work in what is called a team but the ‘team’ does not have a clear vision? Something to think about maybe…..  Also, conflict in vision can tear organisations and teams apart.

Attention to detail is also really important, the little details can make a lot of difference.  For example, a cyclist on the Tour de France needs a good night’s sleep and comfort is important therefore, they may take their own bedding with them.  Now I’m not advocating taking our own bedding to the office although some of us may feel that we literally sleep there sometimes!  I do think this links to what  we need as individuals in a team to perform at our best and part of that is team leaders really knowing us and what makes us tick.

Recognising the value of team members is important, but first and foremost we have to recognise the value in ourselves and have that self belief that all successful athletes have.profile wheel

One of the tools that Di introduced us to was the Profile Wheel.  This is used in sports coaching but can also be used to profile ourselves as individuals or our teams.  Each segment denotes a quality, skill or characteristic.  A table can be inserted below the wheel to identify what each segment stands for and also what the meaning of that is, i.e for an individual Project Manager, a skill could be………communication, the meaning being, to communicate effectively and clearly (without shouting at anyone?!)

Another tool I picked up on and really liked was the Achievement List.  We don’t always value what we do and what we are good at so go back to childhood and start there with your achievements, learning to ride a bike, swimming for 10m, (I only got to 5, I was rubbish at swimming at school!).  Move on to teenage years, university, professional qualifications, achievements at work, hobbies and interests outside of work.

If we really look there are loads of things we have achieved that are part of who we are but we don’t really acknowledge them.  We are too busy moving on to the next challenge rather than giving ourselves time to reflect and bask a little!  I think this could really help build up self belief and resilience, especially in the unfortunate eventuality of redundancy, having a reminder of your achievements could help with confidence moving forwards.

One of the key things that stuck in my mind from that evening is that, athletes don’t win every time, they fail but they persistently put themselves out there and learn from their mistakes.

My big mistake of the night was taking the wrong turning home and ending up in a poultry farm, but, I learnt from my mistake, turned the car around and found my way back home.  No comments about women drivers please, thankyou!

For those interested, Di’s website is: