Become brilliant by creating space for the team

leadership teamsA couple of days ago I was listening to one of the GB rowing coaches at the Rio Olympics speaking about the process for achieving high levels of performance. One thing he said struck me as incredibly relevant to teams in a business setting. He said that they no longer try to mould each rower into one ‘ideal’ model, but tap into the huge diversity of backgrounds, personalities and talents to create a uniquely brilliant team.


I come across many teams who are not tapping into their full potential because they fail to take the time and space to connect, discover more about each other and learn together.

I recently facilitated the second of a series of away-days for a leadership team that has struggled with internal conflict. The most powerful part of the session was when I invited each person to develop and then share their ‘leadership lifeline’.

I gave them a loose framework to use and they then each took a piece of A3 paper and were asked to represent their life so far in words and pictures. The emphasis was on how their life experience had shaped their attitudes and approaches to leadership. After some hesitation, and encouraged by seeing my own lifeline as an example, they spent half an hour individually working on theirs, followed by a session during which they shared the key parts of their life that had shaped their approach to leadership. I was humbled by the level of disclosure and honesty, and the respectful reaction to their colleagues’ stories.

During this short session they built a profound new understanding of each other and increased the level of trust significantly. Later on, they were amazed at how quickly they were able to come to agreement on some quite tricky business issues, something they’d never achieved before. Disclosure is an important factor in building trust, and when there’s deep trust in a team, performance soars.

Budgets and time are tight, now more than ever before. It’s tempting to put that next away-day on hold, or cancel it altogether. After all, you tell yourself, we’ve got too many short-term issues to deal with to waste time on these soft issues. But time after time clients tell me that they’re glad they’ve invested in these carefully-designed team days because they’ve reaped significant performance benefits. In the words of one team member I worked with recently:

“I felt like calling in sick because I didn’t think it would be worth coming along, but it’s been the best investment of time in a long while”.

Contact me, Sarah Henbrey, if you’d like to increase levels of trust and collaboration in your team: +44 (0)7411 483319 or e’mail me at

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