Jim Duffy: Chickens come home to roost if we ignore teamwork

The feathers always fly when individuals are determined to be superstars, especially in politics says Jim Duffy

David Cameron discovered he had a super-chicken in the Conservative coop, in the shape of Michael Gove, when it came to the EU referendum. Picture: Getty Images
David Cameron discovered he had a super-chicken in the Conservative coop, in the shape of Michael Gove, when it came to the EU referendum. Picture: Getty Images

Companies and organisations of all shapes and sizes spend tens of millions of pounds on programmes, consultants and strategies for promoting teamwork in what they do. The concept of team lies at the heart of any decent organisation or outfit. Both corporates and early stage ventures need strong leadership teams to get through each day with all the volatility that comes with running businesses.

Change management programs have made big consultancies fortunes as they peddle team building and team culture programmes to companies keen to promote a cohesive, motivated and loyal workforce that delivers on the vision and goals of each organisation. These programmes usually have varying degrees of success depending on how they are introduced, managed and executed. But, there is no doubt that any organisation that has a great team spirit, a strong team culture and a sense of loyalty to the leader will do well.

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So, why are we led by a bunch of politicians in the UK who have no idea of what it means to work as part of a team, nor how to behave in a team?

As I watch the UK Labour Party recalibrate from Blairite to Brownite to Corbynista to Trot, I get a sense that the party is rife with super-chickens. A super-chicken mentality is not a great model for getting stuff done in a collegiate and team oriented fashion. In fact, super-chickens kill off what a team is all about. When you have an organisation that has four or five individuals trying to be superstars and catch the eye of members - ultimately giving them all the power and all that goes with this - then only chaos will reign. It breeds aggression and a narrative of ‘dog eat dog’. And this cannot be good for any organisation that wants to be inclusive, progressive and consistent.

But, this is not just endemic in the UK Labour Party, it permeates the current Tory Cabinet. If we consider David Cameron, and we think about the EU referendum and what took place with his pal, Michael Gove, then it paints a worrying picture of how our politicians function, their thought processes and the outcomes for us as mere mortals. How can you sit in a Cabinet meeting as Prime Minister running the country, knowing that you have the super-chickens in the room who want to get rid of you, slip into your slippers and get the keys to your chauffeur driven jag? This needs to change and if it doesn’t, we will get the same standard of super-chicken politicians coming up through the political ranks, thinking that it is all about them and not us.

If you have a good think about it all – it’s actually bonkers! Our military – from the minute you sign up you espouse team and comradeship (not the red coloured version). Our soldiers in their platoons, companies and brigades fight for each other and support each other as they train together and work together. Our military academies teach leadership and teamwork and morale building to the officers they produce. Our start-up entrepreneurs know that to build a company of scale they need to build a strong team ethic. Our medics in our hospitals work as part of a team to keep hospital wards free from infection and their patients well cared for - from doctors to auxiliaries, it’s all about pulling together on a hospital ward.

So, why then do we allow our political leaders to act in a very different way? Am I being naive?

Let me give you an example of what I see as a political team that functions as a team, with no super-chickens and with a fair bit of loyalty. It’s called the SNP. Now before you all get hot under the collar, I’m not saying “vote SNP” - this is not a shout out. I am however highlighting that the manner in which I see Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney running the SNP team and machine stands out as less super-chicken and more about getting things done as part of a team….or so it seems. Maybe that’s why they are doing so well, while others are struggling to keep up with them. They’re also united behind a big idea and vision – one that galvanizes, motivates and helps generate cohesiveness. So, let’s extrapolate this algorithm of success in the Nats to the big UK parties and imagine how much more productive they could be if all sitting round the cabinet and shadow cabinet were operating as part of a team.

It could be quite incredible indeed. Imagine your political leaders signed up to three years of working together in a team, instead of in-fighting, back stabbing and plotting for power. What if Theresa May could get out of bed in the morning not having to look over her shoulder half the day, but spending all of the day running the country with a dedicated and loyal team of clever folk working with her – for us.

If our big corporations and our new startups - who are all wealth creators, service providers and innovators - appreciate the essence, value and strength of great teamwork, then why do we tolerate politicians who do not?

I think we deserve more. I believe we deserve better. It’s time to re-imagine politics and educate those who aspire to lead.

Agitator and disrupter Jim Duffy is Head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark