This is the City of Mandurah lifeguard team. They won Western Australia’s 2016 Pool Lifeguard Challenge at HBF Stadium in Perth. The day is a unique one that provides an opportunity for Lifeguards from metropolitan and regional areas to come together and test their skills and fitness.
When it comes to the strength of a team there’s no middle ground; you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.
There’s lots of books on leadership and the art of building strong teams. I use the term ‘the art’ because if it were as simple as reading a book, we probably wouldn’t be discussing it here.
It’s safe to say that the output of a team is generally proportional to its strength; it’s cohesion. If teams aren’t strong enough to get through the small stuff how will they go when the going gets tough? How your organisation fairs after a serious incident will largely be governed by the strength of your team.
Good teams don’t just happen either; they’re made… by good team members with a good leader.
Some people, in the early stages of a career, might aspire to be a leader so others can serve them. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s the leader who serves their people. The leader’s job is to ensure their team has all the resources they need to do their job; equipment, staff, training, administration, safety systems and the list goes on.
A leader needs to be able to put their hand up and take responsibility when it goes wrong. Too often a task, response or project fails because someone simply didn’t really understand what was being ask. That’s because the leader didn’t communicate well enough; communication is a two way street.
Good followership is essential for strong teams but don’t expect it up front. You’ll only get dedicated followership from a team once the leader, demonstrate leadership.
A few years ago 14 pool lifeguards and the manager at a Californian facility were sacked by management when it was found they had made a Gangnam Style spoof video. Uploaded to you tube the clip was quickly viewed 2 million times; Lifeguard Style (Gangnam Style Remake)
The clip is funny and shows a motivated, cohesive and happy team being part of the solution… and on their own time.
Unfortunately, that’s not how management saw it. They saw a display of inappropriate and disgusting behaviour that violated the code of conduct. They saw uniforms being used for a public purpose without permission and a centre manager that had lost control.
Thankfully a month later Councillors intervened and override managements decision, voting to reinstate the lifeguards and the manager.
Traditionally local government is a conservative place and it can be difficult for some to realise that team spirit isn’t created with a memo. The song maybe new but what the lifeguards were doing isn’t; the art of building effective teams is as old as the Roman Legions.
Be innovative; it’s an art. Build your team, trust your team, enjoy your team, be your team. It makes success so, so satisfying.