We recently saw the retirement of opening batsman and former England Cricket Captain Alastair Cook who bowed out in the best possible way with a determined and pivotal personal contribution to the team’s success. In a fairy tale, victorious finish which included a century in his final innings, the last test match of the English summer epitomised Cook’s career.
Having announced his retirement in the preceding week, Cook gave a wonderful interview with Jonathan Agnew (available here) which I recommend to any cricket fan. One line that caught my attention was something that we often hear or read from team sportsmen or anyone operating within close, sometimes stressful, environments; “The one thing I know I am going to miss……is the dressing room experience…..experiencing so many things with a group of people has been absolutely amazing.” The camaraderie within competitive sports teams or groups facing shared peril (e.g. firemen or soldiers) often seems to forge bonds which break through any social barriers that might otherwise divide.
This of course translates to the working environment for all of us. A cohesive team with shared goals and aspirations has the makings of a successful and effective unit. Individuals don’t even need to all be ‘best buddies’; a sufficient level of respect and courtesy is required but, keeping with the sporting analogy, there have been plenty of examples of successful teams where the on-field camaraderie was cohesive even when social divides existed privately. Equally, there have been teams with a relaxed, amicable friendliness throughout which has failed to translate into success at the highest levels on the field.
At some point, when we talk about whether someone is a ‘team player’, it starts to focus in on trust; staying with cricket, can the team trust the batsman to play the circumstances? Can he protect his wicket at all costs trying to bat out the final day or throw caution to the wind in order to take the game away from the opposition regardless of personal milestones and career statistics? In the workplace, can the team player do what is best for the company’s goals? In the ideal environment the company and personal goals should be interwoven.
Being a team player and being a strong individual are not mutually exclusive – a good team player benefits from the inner confidence and strength that individual character provides. Contributing to the team is both drawing on inner confidence to follow and commit to the team direction when it is correct whilst also having the courage to speak up and question if the path is unclear and the result uncertain. Good, constructive criticism often comes from strong individuals who are team players.
For me, it is vital that I can trust those I work around and am fortunate with the colleagues I have at VCI – the longevity within the consultancy team (Tony joined in 2001, Pete in 2007) gives a continuity for our clients which rewards and repays their trust in our services. I have no shame in stating that we are good at what we do – each individual consultant is extremely competent and knowledgeable – but VCI is undoubtedly a stronger offering to our clients because we work as a team rather than simply being a ‘collection of individuals’ – the cliché “Greater than the sum of its parts” applies.
Each individual can contribute to a team total. Adding up our combined years within the IT industry, VCI is currently at the wicket on 70 not out….and we’re looking to bat on to a much bigger score.