The 'W' in Teamwork

Commitment, camaraderie and mutual support

Executive coaching lessons from an all-woman team
Happy Anniversary Horringer Pre-School Acorn Project!

Friday was a big day: the Mayor and Mayoress of Bury St. Edmunds came to tea at the Pre-School where I volunteer. We were celebrating the first anniversary of the Acorn Project, our fundraising campaign to raise £200,000 for a new community building.

It has been a busy year - we started from scratch, apart from some savings. Our team of willing volunteers have had to master everything from construction and building design, to branding and marketing, effective consultation, and lots and lots of fundraising.

But we’ve achieved a lot: over £45,000 so far, and planning permission granted for a building that everyone agrees will make a significant difference to the local community.

However, listing our achievements is not the point of this post. Instead, I want to celebrate my remarkable learning experience about the power of a mutually supportive team, all of whom were women.

I spent the latter five years of my career in the male-dominated environment of law enforcement. It so happens that this was my first experience of an all-female team. (And I’m not saying the following will be true of every all-woman team. Or that it won’t be true of all-male teams.)

Over the last year, I found that all our meetings were accompanied by home-made cake. We laughed a lot, even in the face of near-disasters. It hasn’t been perfect - sometimes there could have been less chatting and more moving forward on the agenda. But above all, we have supported each other fully and completely, even when we disagreed.

I discovered that this particular team of women, without at any point seeking glory or angling to be the boss, just did the job that needed to be done. They designed, adapted, deducted, launched, negotiated, and formulated - even scaled muddy obstacles, waitressed at a pub quiz, and herded children on a bouncy castle.

And most crucially, they not only did it when they were asked to volunteer. They also stepped in without being asked where they saw the need.

The sense of support, camaraderie and shared commitment was, and is huge, and there is no way this team could have achieved what it has without these.

So, the executive coaching lessons for me, whether the team is male, female or mixed, are:

  • remember what a team can achieve when it works together without ego

  • cherish those among your work contacts that you can count on for support

  • if you haven’t got any - make it a priority to find some (it will help if you also support others…)

  • and make sure your goal is expressed in such a way that people can genuinely rally behind it.

Because as part of a mutually supportive team filled with camaraderie and commitment to a cause, you have a much higher chance of changing the world.