Category Archives: 2016 Class posts

Am I a goose? – Four stories about teamwork

Am I a goose? – Four stories about teamwork

Tom Martin (EMBA 2016) shares four stories about teamwork that he learnt from his EMBA Team Consulting Project, which he found instrumental in his own development as a leader and team player.

Geese migrate over 4,000 miles in a perfect V-formation.  Whenever the leading one tires, another seamlessly slots into position in its place.   This happens repeatedly, without hesitation.  Flying in this formation allows the geese to fly over 70% further than they what they could achieve alone.   That’s teamwork.

I wanted to share what I’ve learned about teamwork during my EMBA Team Consulting Project (TCP) over the last four months with four very short stories.  During the project, not only do you perform valuable work, but you reflect deeply on how you and others work as a team … or not!

1. Geese: teamwork in action

Prior to their 2014 victory, Sir Alex Ferguson – one of the world’s most successful club managers – told the story of the geese to the European Ryder Cup team.  Years earlier, he had once stopped the world-class footballers of Manchester United mid-training session, pointing up at the sky to show them some geese that were flying in perfect formation above them.  This example epitomised how Sir Alex treasured and actively pursued traits such as teamwork and formation amongst his own successful teams.

After all, those of us with day-jobs would find it difficult to make every meeting, or be present at all times.  However, I know that if one of my teammates in our Team Consulting Project (TCP) couldn’t lead in a situation, there was always at least one other that could take his place.   When we had to present our ‘finale’ presentation to three CEOs at the end of our project, I had just received some heart-breaking family news.  In this situation, as with the geese, my friends and colleagues were able to step in.

2. Shared values

Following the work my team and Idd had achieved on the TCP, we were approached by a separate business to discuss working together.  Unlike our TCP work, there was equity on the table this time around.  I have a busy day-job that I love, so didn’t want to, and couldn’t, pursue this opportunity.  However, it was the first time in my life I’d ever sat across the table from someone that I could, in theory, have been a business partner with.

I remember the conversation well, though it was pretty mundane for the first 45 minutes.  However, what really triggered my interest was when the prospective partners began to share with me their values, and – ultimately – their desire to make a difference.  It dawned on me that what attracts me in business, more than anything, was shared values.  Yet another lesson etched in my psyche from this process!

3. Humour

I know that I’m probably one of those over-serious guys.  I am prone to tunnel vision, which is helpful when you want to ‘get things done’, but it’s also a potential derailleur for me.   Having worked with my TCP team, I can honestly say I’ve not laughed so much, or as often, in years.  In fact, humour was listed as one of the best characteristics a team can have during one of our Management Praxis lectures.  Ironically, I had laughed this off at the time, but no longer!

4. Psychological safety

It’s hard to do the concept of psychological safety justice in one paragraph, but if you haven’t read Google’s study on psychological safety, please do!  From Google’s data analytics (who better to do this analysis?!), the company found that Psychological safety was the key trait in successful teams.  

I’m not an expert, but psychological safety to me is the self-confidence you have knowing that your team will not embarrass, reject or punish you for speaking up.  It’s about cultivating a team climate that is characterised by interpersonal trust, mutual respect, and people feeling comfortable being themselves.   During the TCP, we ate, drank, flew, worked and even rode horses together.  We truly depended on another.  A psychologically safe team is not only an effective one, but quite simply an enjoyable and liberating one!  If building such teams is not an ambition for your own workplace, I don’t know what is!

 

I’ve returned to my office with a new, higher bar to aim for.  I’m looking at the teams I’m leading and am part of with a renewed perspective.  I believe that real teams can transcend ‘work’, and can become part of your real life for the better.  Building them is worth the effort, and my first step will be to ask myself:

‘Am I a goose?’

Networking between EMBAs from Cambridge, Oxford and London

Networking between EMBAs from Cambridge, Oxford and London

Diana Henderson (EMBA 2016) jointly organised a networking event with students from CJBS and three other UK business schools. Last month, Executive MBA students from Cambridge, Oxford, London Business School and London School of Economics gathered for a joint networking event in London. I was motivated to organise this event because of the importance I… Continue Reading

Why women should apply for an EMBA

Why women should apply for an EMBA

Vanessa Marcie (EMBA 2016) discusses why more women should apply for the Cambridge EMBA, drawing from her own experience of the programme so far. We are 19 strong, opinionated, experienced women in a class of 81 professionals studying at Cambridge. We are one of the largest groups of women to study for this programme. We… Continue Reading

The silent power of leadership

The silent power of leadership

Diana Henderson writes about the importance of emotional intelligence as a leadership tool. Humility, deep listening skills and insight into people & team dynamics are some of the soft leadership skills that differentiate good from great leaders. Leadership is not simply charisma but also the capacity to understanding the culture of your team; the heart… Continue Reading

Like students.  Like bosses.  Like comrades – EMBA International Business Study Trip

Like students. Like bosses. Like comrades – EMBA International Business Study Trip

Mena Thamburatnam enjoyed the International Business Trip to Silicon Valley in March, one that developed her skills and those of her “superhero” classmates. I look through the cross-hairs of my rifle scope. I’ve been in stealthy pursuit of my quarry for over two hours. The next 30 seconds will need my undivided attention. But my thoughts… Continue Reading

The hidden face of the Côte d’Azur?

The hidden face of the Côte d’Azur?

Vanessa Marcie invited classmates to her native Côte d’Azur to discover a region of investment potential beyond tourism. A few weeks ago, I welcomed a dozen students from the Cambridge EMBA 2016, to the Côte d’Azur. My challenge: changing their perception of the Côte d’Azur. The Côte d’Azur is well known as a touristy place.… Continue Reading

The world is not flat, but uphill – EMBA International Business Study Trip

The world is not flat, but uphill – EMBA International Business Study Trip

Lillian Zagoya recollects her IBST to Silicon Valley alongside, amongst others, a “joyful entrepreneur from Hungary”, an “always smiley ex-captain of a Rugby team”. It’s 6:40am, and I ran through the rain to catch a spinning class at 7am. I can’t see much except for the backs of my 4 friends: a joyful entrepreneur from… Continue Reading

People power and innovation – EMBA International Business Study Trip

People power and innovation – EMBA International Business Study Trip

Brooke Chadeayne returns from the Executive MBA International Business Study Trip to California, having experienced how innovation and people power lie at the heart of success in Silicon Valley. The International Business Study Trip focused on exploring Silicon Valley as a cluster of innovation and entrepreneurship, with distinctive institutions and culture.  To that end, two themes about innovation… Continue Reading