I spent the first 20ish years of my life working alone. At school, sixth-form and university I was marked on my own work – never in groups and so, to be frank, was a poor team player. Not in the sense that we normally mean – poor team players don’t play nicely with others and are a pain to work with – I just didn’t have the experience of relying on others to get things done. I was more used to delegating or rolling up my sleeves and pumping up the elbow grease.
Last year, one of my goals was to break the habit of a lifetime and learn to build a team. It’s been a rollercoaster of mistakes and learning, as well as new long and short relationships – but I’ve made some strides and feel like now is the time to share some things. I am reflecting on the first weeks of Outbox Incubator and have spent time learning the real meaning of #squadgoals. The joys of working with young smart women are so many to list, but in our first week #squadgoals were a real upside.
We threw a group of 45 teenage girls, who have never met each other together and got 23 of them (those aged 18 and under) to work on tech ideas using open data for the 2015 Young Rewired State Festival of Code. The 7 teams presented their (not quite) finished products at a large international event in Birmingham over a weekend. In the process we all very quickly realised what #squadgoals are.
#squadgoals are the amazing things we do together
#squadgoals on the coach – as they all bonded and together prepared their products and pitches for the judges
#squadgoals as we arrived at the event and made our presence known in the ways we wanted: by doing impromptu group dances to destress before presentations using a portable speaker blaring music at top volume
#squadgoals as we proudly cheered and whooped each other on through tense pitches in front of judges
#squadgoals as we screamed with joy when just one of the teams got through to the semi-finals.
#squadgoals as we screamed with joy with that team when they missed the finals by one point and were the only team to get a special commendation from the judges.
#squadgoals as we woke up late the next morning and collectively had brunch in Nandos together.
Through an intense week in which some felt homesick, some felt unsure of their abilities and some felt intimidated by the prowess of everyone around them, our cohort of girls leaned together and achieved #squadgoals over and over again: together.
And that togetherness is something that I’ve had to learn with my team. When we have a goal or project to work on, it’s important that we do it together and have the ability to do so. As the head of the team, it’s important that I give my team the environment to do that. Which isn’t easy, over a period of 6 weeks as we live together in such close proximity, in a house with so many teenage girls, so much food and with so many things going on at once.
So, so many things going on at once – shoutout to the team who appear at 1:47.
As we grow again I’m being careful selecting the rest of our team
Attitude is everything
I’ve learnt the hard way that having the right can-do attitude is the utmost quality needed for someone to be a positive addition to the team. If someone is constantly bringing up problems with no solutions or slacking so much that the entire team notices and feels hard done by, they are toxic for us all. Also, the nature of what we’re doing means that our attitudes are also there for customers, stakeholders and beneficiaries to see – so we’re all at risk when a sponsor, girl or parent sees a bad attitude.
Having No-one is better that having a wrong someone
I’ve hired the wrong people in a rush. I’ve hired the wrong people based on recommendations from others. Each time I add to the list of ‘alarm bells’ that can be rung during the recruitment process. I know how much time, headspace and effort is wasted each time the wrong someone is brought on board; it’s never worth the waste. Due to my background in working alone I know it’s much better to have extra work personally for a few months, rather than have extra work generated by having the wrong person onboard.
Treat people well and trust them to do the same
I’m incredibly thankful for the team I have. I like to remind them, do nice things and say ‘yes’ to things they ask for to *show* how thankful I am. I also do this as it shows I trust them with something so important to me. Due to their attitude, and being the right people, they don’t throw this back in my face. They feel empowered to go over and above in their roles – combine this with the right attitude and we’re on a winning streak.
The next step in this learning journey is that of being a co-founder. This is a whole new level of teamworking and #squadgoals altogether. I’ll write on #cofoundergoals when I’m ready…
The title of this post is a reference to my nickname and the fact that my first team at work found my inability to ‘work on something *with* someone else’ hilarious. There’s ‘no I in team’, but also ‘no AMI in team’. There is ‘AM in team’, though.