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Setting the tone – a spoonful of sugar? Brian Chernett

Brian Chernett

Brian Chernett

Do you want a high performing team that develops over time, with people that stay and grow into new roles, people that demonstrate trust, determination, creativity and loyalty? Of course you do.

To achieve that, it has to be enjoyable to work with you. There has to be, as the Sherman Brothers put it (below), ‘an element of FUN’. To put it another way – “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and, of course, it ensures that Jacks Co becomes an underperforming and underachieving business.

In every job that must be done /There is an element of fun / You find the fun and – snap! – the job’s a game /And every task you undertake / Becomes a piece of cake ….
Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman for the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins

Your role in achieving that high performing team is critical. As leader you are very visible and seen by all. What YOU do is what you’ll get. If you lead by example, your people will follow. So if your leadership is downbeat or mechanistic, that’s what you’ll get more of. If setting the right tone is a problem in your business right now, then you need to change what’s happening, change the role model and to do that you will need to change your behaviour.

How do you set a tone that works for the business and the team? All businesses have a set of rules – and some rules are necessary – that determine what must happen. Your attitude, and that of your top team, set a standard for what can happen – what, maybe, people can get away with. Your example determines what does happen on a day to day basis.

Building all of those desirable attitudes and behaviours in your team – trust, determination, creativity, loyalty and, indeed, a sense of fun – requires a mixture of a ‘hard’ business approach coupled with ‘soft’ people skills. My aim here is not to create a ‘playschool’ atmosphere but rather a place where a strong business drive is achieved with a human face.

Hard, relentless, impersonal drive will not deliver the high performance you desire. Most people are unable to leave the rest of their lives at the door to the office. People are have complex lives that are intertwined and have issues and events happening elsewhere that will manifest in the work place. Unless that is acknowledged, areas such as staff turnover will be higher and loyalty will not be earned. And loyalty does need to be earned. Just paying higher salaries, if you do, will not be enough. Creativity does not flourish under the whip and trust, that vital element of true performance, will not even begin to flourish.

Be certain about your aims, communicate them clearly and well, show your appreciation of good work and your human face, listen to your team as individuals and as a group and you will build a team that can work well together, that enjoys being in each others’ company and respects the skills and value they find in the individuals around them That to me is the minimum requirement of a performing team – anything less is not a team.

And the team that plays together stays (and wins) together.

Brian Chernett is founder of The Academy for Chief Executives (ACE) – He has 43 years’ experience as managing director of private and public companies, including subsidiaries of Booker Bros McConnell, the Landmark Group, and several other major companies. Find out more at
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