united we stand

Managing a team can be a tricky business. Balancing egos, personalities, ideas, grafters, blockers and dodgers. The best teams usually boast a natural leader. Or two.

by Phil Jewitt

There’s a film called The Damned United which tells the story of the managerial partnership of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. Together, they successfully led Derby County and Nottingham Forest to football glory in the 1970s but not so successfully* after they went their separate ways. For those too young to remember or not remotely interested in football, you can replace Brian and Peter with Ant and Dec, The Hairy Bikers or any other successful partners.  

It’s probably fair to say none of them would have achieved the success they jointly have without the relationship they created and maintained and their understanding of each other and their teams.

Recent posts by Darren, Paul and Simon explained similar experiences of being a Head of Comms. Relevantly, they all talk about relationships, supporting and being supported by their teams.

I take my hat off to anyone who takes on the role of leading a team, be it professionally or in a voluntary capacity, as it can be a lonely place. One thing is guaranteed; you won’t please all the people, all of the time; perhaps not even most of the time, but showing you really care helps loads.

Good teams need the Brian Cloughs of this world to lead from the front, set standards, and fight the cause when the going gets tough. But they also need the Peter Taylors too. I’d wager in the new world of public sector communications where less hierarchical/more networked, smaller, even shared teams, will be the norm, the best will increasingly have strong partnerships and good relationships and understanding throughout which provide mutual support and the odd sense check to help keep things on the straight and narrow.

When there are less of us to do what is needed and less money to do it with, time and effort taken to develop and maintain relationships with colleagues and beyond will be vital. Importantly, it will increasingly involve ensuring colleagues’ health and wellbeing is supported as much as developing professional competencies.

Initiatives like Future Leaders; preparing those poised for the next step, professional competency frameworks (the 4 I’s); to benchmark against, set standards and identify continued professional development opportunities and LGComms and professional body awards where excellence is the expected standard, all rightly support improved professional standing and clearly help deliver better communication outcomes. They are all well promoted and quite easy to find.

Perhaps less so, resources and support to develop that caring comms person that relates to others and makes sure colleagues are doing ok and living the values required of our communications profession and our employers - the softer, pastoral side of how we support and shape people in how they do their jobs. Employee wellbeing resources will be probably be found with individual human resources or organisation development teams but it would be interesting to see if there are any communication profession resources available or if this softer side might be reflected in professional frameworks and development opportunities. Please shout if you are in the know.

In our efforts to improve and strive for professional excellence, let’s also take time to look after ourselves and each other too; our relationships matter.

*Unfortunately, that would be the once mighty Leeds United :-(

Phil Jewitt is senior communications manager at Leeds City Council

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