Are you a team player or a leader?
I was one of those kids who always got left to last when the sporty captains were picking their teams. Honestly, I didn’t mind as it meant that I could either sit out hockey practice on the bench and avoid getting my shins hacked, or endorse my position as a rubbish player and have a laugh with the other ‘creative’ types in the B team.
I dubbed this the ‘Be Team’ as we were the girls who’d rather just ‘be’. Instead of playing hockey and netball we drank instant coffee and debated in the common room. Or we took modern dance classes with a young trainee teacher who’d managed to wrestle an old record player and a precious vinyl single of Aretha’s Franklin’s Respect into the school hall. I can still remember the dance moves she taught us today!
I learnt pretty early on that teams come in all shapes and sizes with different skills, strengths and aversions. Then, as if to prove some great point about human nature and indeed humanity itself, a worldwide pandemic came along and reminded us all about the value of teams.
Speaking from my own experience, I have never valued my Funny Women team more than I have over the last seven months. We’ve cried, laughed, pivoted and pirouetted through the first lockdown and we’re weathering the replay now.
We all know the principle of leading by example and every team needs an inspirational and decisive leader. Yet some of us are team players, and prefer it that way, while others step up to the plate and take on responsibility and even risk.
Research undertaken by Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, found that better teams have a lower rate of error, not because they make fewer mistakes, but because they are more likely to address or report them. A good team works together to put things right, finds a solution and doesn’t waste time on apportioning blame for mistakes, to each other or the leader. Politicians take heed.
I believe that teams can be built quickly as long as you observe a few simple principles. Listen, watch and collaborate so that your colleagues will get the best out of you – and, if you step up to lead, you will get the best out of them. This technique is vital for today’s virtual environment.
I confess that I’m not a natural team player. Everyone in the Funny Team team works remotely and we only work together physically when we are running live events, which are thin on the ground currently. I employ a circular, seemingly indecisive feminine style, avoiding confrontation where possible and I often find decision-making hard.
My team know this about me and know how to push my buttons or back away. As Professor Edmondson’s research proves, good teams work well together through good and bad times and recognise when a leader needs support or a ‘nudge’. Not everybody leads from the front, some of us do it from within.
So, I write this with grateful thanks to the team and our wider community of advisors, regional volunteers, collaborators, performers, writers, creators and facilitators who make Funny Women what it is today.
You are also part of our team, just by taking the time to read this article.
There’s lots of ways to join in from receiving the weekly newsletter, taking part in a Comedy Workout, becoming one of our Funny Friends or commissioning us to run one of our HERlarious online team building events in your virtual workplace. I’m the ‘team captain’ by default because I came up with the idea but I can’t do this without you all.