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The 'team' is bigger than the individual

This article comes from a source we have quoted previously, that being Steve Simpson of Keystone Management Service. In Keystone's "Cultural Intelligence" newsletter Steve writes great practical and succinct stuff free of management speak.

We have been waiting to use this article for almost 18 months now because as soon as it appeared in the “Cultural Intelligence” newsletter in October 2008, we were finding it difficult to get anyone in the mining industry to pay attention to anything that wasn’t directly promising that it would save their company from complete devastation.

Now though things are settling down it would seem with the employment market returning to some semblance of normality. As a result we’re trying to offer our readers some tips to stay ahead of the pack by tapping into the trends that will help them run and build a better mining business or department on a mine site.

So what’s most important?

The concept of Unwritten Ground Rules (UGR’s) have been presented by Steve Simpson previously and are deduced in part by the difference between what people say and what they do. UGR’s are also inferred from watching the behaviours and actions of others. Steve used the story of an Australian Rules Footballer to illustrate.

But first some questions – what is more important:

  •  Bringing in money as a lone wolf or being a team player?

  • Following policies and rules or displaying initiative?

  •  Providing quality customer care or processing customer queries quickly?

In any organisation the answers to these provide true insights into an organisation and what is really important to them and more often than not the really important clues are very subtle and deduced, not overt.

Sporting analogy

In September 2008 the Australian Rules Football (AFL) grand final was played and won (in a surprise) by the young Hawthorn team.

(Bear with us you non-sports fans or fans of other sports, as the story has strong relevance to us all in business, work, sport, families - whatever.)

The AFL grand final is played in front of 100,000 people, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and in 2008 the 2 teams were from the state of Victoria so the crowd were particular passionate. Geelong were much more experienced and the hot favourites having won the year before and Hawthorn were the up and coming young guns that probably needed 2-3 more years before they would show their best.

Not to be, Hawthorn got over Geelong in a big upset and took the major prize.

This in itself is not necessarily a surprise as in business and sports, upsets happen all the time.

The really interesting and revealing clue about the inner motivations of the Hawthorn team came after the game. There is a tradition that after the grand final, the losing team is thanked and the player judged best onfield is awarded a highly respected medal - the Norm Smith medal, named after a famous captain coach from decades earlier. The medal is presented and hung around the players neck on the ground in this packed stadium in front of the huge crowd, the media and the players from both sides. On this occasion it was awarded to the Hawthorn player Luke Hodge.

Lastly, the name of each player in the winning team is announced and they come to the podium to receive their premiership medal which is also hung around their neck, before the winning team does a lap of honour to celebrate with their fans.

After this whole process which takes around 30-45 minutes, the teams along with partners, staff and club dignitaries retire to the change rooms and the winning team sings the club song with great gusto. The TV cameras are in the rooms as well and at one point focussed in on the Norm Smith medal winner Luke Hodge who along with his team mates was getting ready to sing the team song.

It was at this point that one commentator noticed something very interesting, a very small clue – that Luke Hodge had taken off his Norm Smith medal and left on his premiership medal.

What an incredible act! As the commentator noted, this was a clear and powerful message to all – team is more important that the individual. No coach or leader could have asked for a more significant clue about the importance of the team.