The touchlines of Yorkshire…I suspect that thirteen years from now – when we finally deliver Rory to freshers’ week – I’ll be able to say that I’ve stood on most of them.
But it was Dan, my eight year old, on duty this weekend. Rugby first – Selby’s needle game against Doncaster. Awesome. Plain bloody awesome. They passed, they ran, they tackled, they encouraged, they talked to each other. They were a team. Three tries to two against their fiercest rivals, and at that moment the Sports Personality Coach of the Year award for E. Reid looked little more than a formality. Proud? You bet. But there’s something else – when you see a bunch of eight year old boys coming together as one, realising the whole is greater than the sum of their parts, of course you’re proud. But more importantly, you’re privileged.
Dan came off the pitch exchanging so many high fives I thought he’d break his wrist. Off came the green and mud rugby shirt – and on went a pristine red football shirt. He temporarily suspended his allegiance to Selby RUFC and prepared to bolster Monk Fryston’s midfield.
I looked across the car park. Ominously several of Dan’s erstwhile team mates were changing into the sky blue of Brayton. High fives gave way to wary glances.
An hour later I was reflecting on Rudyard Kipling…
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
In which case my son is well on the way to being a man. Absolute disaster. Monk Fryston didn’t pass, they didn’t run, they didn’t tackle. Lost 5-1. Did they talk to each other? That would be no. The blaming and bickering made Jamie Carragher and Fernando Torres look like best mates.
I was still thinking about the difference in the two games when I went to work the next day. I’d seen it in the Everton-Liverpool game as well. Team spirit vs. no team spirit. Result? Inevitable. How could one team communicate so well, the other barely communicate at all?
But for all the training courses, for all the team-building exercises, the same thing happens every day in the workplace. How many of us have come across the guy in the office who doesn’t communicate? Who once read the words ‘knowledge is power’ and thought they meant don’t tell anybody anything.
I started writing this blog on Wednesday – the day the Government “spending review” (aka the cuts) was announced. No two ways about it, the next couple of years are going to be tough – and companies that don’t communicate are going to be in trouble. Yes, you’re obviously going to be in trouble if you don’t communicate with your customers and clients – but companies are going to be in just as much trouble if the people within them don’t communicate with each other.
I once had a manager who thought he was a brilliant communicator. And to be fair, he was pretty good at organising ten pin bowling trips. “Team building, Ed. Communication. Work together, play together. They’ll notice this on the 12th floor…”
What they probably did notice on the 12th floor was that ‘the team’ spent a disproportionate amount of time round the water cooler – largely because it was the only place we found out anything. Our ‘manager’ was great at getting his secretary to ring the bowling alley – he just didn’t have the courage to communicate openly with us. “Bit of a dip in the sales figures, Ed.” (I wonder why?) “Still, I’ve organised some paintballing. That’ll put us back on track.”
Sadly, far too many companies still disseminate information by rumour and counter-rumour. Over the next two to three years, that won’t do. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I guarantee that if you communicate openly and honestly with your staff or your team (even if it’s bad news) morale, motivation and performance will all go up.
Back to football to finish off, and the soap opera playing out at Old Trafford. Whoever you side with, there’s clearly been a serious lack of communication – and the team is going to pay a heavy price.
So talk to your staff. Do it early and do it often. And three years from now you’ll be glad you did. You might even have a few more trophies in the cabinet…