In his Note in May, Géraud reflected on his managerial role by stating “[It is] my duty to recruit a diverse team with the right expertise and strong collaboration skills… I have come to realise that optimism, grit and unabated curiosity to learn new things are just as important as expertise and/or experience.”
It has now been three months since BD Giving grew to a team of six. We set some big ambitions and we’ve slid down some steep learning curves… together. Together is the key word here. As a result, we feel bonded as a team. So much so that we decided to increase our in-person co-working days at the Barking Enterprise Centre (BEC), and we are now contemplating moving into our very first permanent office space. As we pick out our preferred chairs and desk lamps, it feels right to reflect on the values and shared experiences that have led us to such an effective team bond.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Want to find out what that means to us?
It means we trust each other and we listen to each other. We all know this doesn’t happen overnight. Since the arrival of three new colleagues in the Spring, we’ve committed to daily 9.30 am meetings. Sometimes meetings were spent talking about personal issues and sometimes they were spent focused on work projects. Either way, our CEO took a back seat and let the conversations flow. These 30-minute meetings were not just meant to be a productivity planning session. They were meant to create space for connection as we were all working from home. Honesty about how we were feeling each day became a natural conversation starter. We shared about housing searches, health diagnoses, break-ups, and the perils of parenthood. This space allowed each of us to bring our whole selves into our work. It has shaped the way we collaborate and it gives our peers context for our individual approach to work.
Understanding each other on a personal level has become the foundation for trust. We’ve built up the confidence to say what we feel in group settings and we trust each other to listen. We call each other “intelligent” and “fierce” when we feel it. We also say “no” to each other (sometimes abruptly) and explain our reasoning. In doing this, we’ve created a culture in which everyone’s feelings are valued.
Power shifts in practice
We talk a lot about shared power within funding structures and within our borough with those who feel disenfranchised by the way these structures are currently set up. So, we challenge power structures within our team in many different ways. As Cameron reminds us, participatory work cannot be a thing that organisations ‘do’ – it’s a thing they have to ‘be’ as well.
More people as part of the team means more people to manage. We’ve created a two-way appraisal system so that employees can give feedback on their manager’s performance in the same way that they receive feedback on their own performance. This has been effective in opening up lines of communication and helping managers to be more responsive to the specific needs of an employee. We hope this will help BD Giving retain the great people we currently have.
Additionally, every team member has a chance to lead on projects and for our weekly meetings, we have rotating meeting chairs. When junior members of the team lead meetings they are empowered to answer questions from senior members of the team with authority. This role reversal has helped strengthen participation and input from junior members of the team across the board. Every member of the team feels confident in asking why things are happening or suggesting a better way of doing things. This makes our team truly diverse in thought.
Each person joined with the knowledge that BD Giving is a new organisation seeking to do things differently. So we all committed to starting on a journey of learning and discovery. We now happen to be doing that together and we acknowledge that the journey isn’t always easy.
Over the Summer, we hosted an event that felt chaotic; afterwards, we all felt negative about it. This is not to say that the event itself was not a success, it was. It simply was not on par with how we run and facilitate BD Giving events and we had to understand exactly what went wrong. We hadn’t planned for a post-mortem meeting but after the event, we knew it was needed. As a team, we took collective responsibility and contributed ideas for doing better next time. We decided to make evaluation part of every future event. Pausing regularly to check in– whether that be at team meetings, after an event, or at discussions specifically dedicated to reflection– we work out the kinks so that we don’t continue to feel the same frustrations.
The team takes pride in developing processes together. Another example is that we didn’t have much of an employee handbook in place when three new employees started. We were using off-the-shelf policies that we handed over to new employees. After a few weeks in, we asked everyone to contribute to building a new handbook and in doing this we gained the learned experience from new employees on what is needed.
We try to be a person-centred organisation from the top down, meaning that we trust in the idea that looking after our people means that we will be more likely to achieve our desired goals.
The process of coming together to vocalise our thoughts to write this note was a bonding exercise in itself! We didn’t expect it to be but we all agreed we should do it again.
Next time, it will be in our new office space where everyone is welcome (watch this space!).