There are infinite blogs and ‘how to’ columns out there on teams and how they work. Many are angled almost entirely at a corporate level; teams who are raising a company’s income, beating a monthly financial high, and all that.
But what’s it like in Parliament? The most common team is an MP’s office, on average anything from one to five people plus the MP. That’s a small team, but all with a very clear purpose; to ensure the MP is incredibly visible in all ways, to be available and accessible, to be able to pick up any problem that comes from a constituent in a positive way, and to be making extraordinarily good legislation with colleagues. So, no pressure then….
What are the key points for any team that we can take on board in an MPs office to ensure we have a cohesive, vibrant and happy team, providing the 360* support needed by the boss?
Direction. Best to start at the end result; the clear team purpose is to ensure the MP has an excellent profile, is busy, on the ball, on the case, and gaining votes for the next election. Whilst also being the best they can be in the House, keeping on top of new things coming in and providing direction in a constituency for campaigning. So, the clear direction has to come from the MP in the first instance. What is it they want overall, and do they express that well to the team?
Communication. Listening. Not as easy as it sounds. Positive listening, listen like you mean it, restating what you’ve heard, getting clarification; all demonstrate that you have heard something as someone had meant it. This is very key for an MP’s team; listening to the MP, but also listening to each other. Most teams are full of people who are smart, able and driven. But do you listen/share/properly communicate with each other? When did you last hold a team discussion around a topic that might have a variety of answers?
For an MP listening is huge. They need to listen to their team members, trust them, treat them as equals in the workplace, and respect a variety of views being offered. Knowing your view has been heard and valued – even if it not the prevailing view – is empowering across a team.
Change. How much do you investigate change in your team? Annually? More than that? Or never? Appraisals/team days/assessments? You would be surprised how many teams are stuck in a ‘forever pattern’ of work, never discussing or thinking that a team member might actually benefit hugely from taking on some new work that might energise, or someone may have outgrown a role but could be used within the team in another way. More often than not no-one asks, and staff move on for a new challenge; but does it have to be that way? Using the skills within the team can be fruitful.
Accountability. What’s the blame-game like in your office? Variable? Accompanied by a small sigh as you say ‘well, if such a person had actually done x…’. It’s an easy trap to fall into. But just think of the uplift to spirits if you heard a positive comment from a colleague saying ’I know you may have missed this, but let’s work together to fix it’.
A good team accepts responsibility as individuals but also as a team. Blame gets us nowhere. But the positive aspect of being accountable to each other as well as the boss can be very powerful.
Goals and collaboration. Goals in an MP’s office go right back to clear direction; we all know what the overall goal is, but how are we doing on smaller goals, daily/monthly goals?
Team goals are worth looking at a couple of times a year at least. What new thing can the teamwork towards to move everyone up a notch, is it a new diary process, is it new software to share information; is it something simple like timings of the day working for all. Collaboration on basic, and big issues, can invigorate a team.
So, take a look at your team, if its new you can plan to do this well, if you’re more established think about how you make simple changes to get the very best out of your team. Or, if you need some help, speak to Hive Support Ltd and let us find a way to help your team work better for you all.