Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Q. I've recently been asked to lead a team. Do you have any tips on team working?

A. A rather silly saying once suggested that "there is no 'I' in team".

There is, of course, a 'me', emphasising that you must have a key role in driving delivery and establishing proper focus.

Do not fall into the trap in which you end up thinking that 'teamwork' means establishing a consensus or working to the lowest common denominator.

You're not in a commune

In the 1980s, the notion existed among some third sector organisations that having a chief executive was too elitist. They used to run their organisations rather like communes, with directors sharing responsibilities - not a model for success.

This is neatly illustrated by an amusing anecdote I read recently in The Times' obituary for the late Sheikh Maktoum of Dubai. As young teenagers, Maktoum and his two brothers tried to drive a Land Rover with one of them working the accelerator, one holding the steering wheel and the other peering through the windscreen. Unsurprisingly, the vehicle careered off the desert road and crashed.

So ditch any notion that your only role is to sit there and encourage others to work together. Indeed, these old-fashioned notions of teamwork can often lead to the idea that you must encourage weaker members of the team at the expense of the truly talented.

Please don't do this - if you have brighter or maverick members of the team, you need to encourage them just as much as you do the less forthcoming.

Bright ideas people

Make sure your team has bright intellects and people who have shown a capacity to deliver. You will also want to ensure there is a variety of skills around the table - a mixture of 'bright ideas' people, methodical planners and analysts.

What you won't want are 'traitors' - people who are not onside and will try to undermine the aims that you have set for the group. However, do:

- set targets and monitor how they are achieved

- suppress bureaucracy and inflexibility

- focus the group on delivery

- encourage ideas and thinking 'outside the box'

- maintain overall strategic direction

- suppress 'producer interest' - those people who seem to think the main purpose of an organisation is to provide employment opportunities for its staff

- maintain enthusiasm and motivation.

Phil Jackson, a former coach of the Chicago Bulls basketball team, once said: "The strength of the team is each individual member - the strength of each member is the team." Your job is to lead that process.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to

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