The Oxford Dictionary defines team as ‘two, or more draught animals harnessed together, a set of players forming one side of a game. It further suggests ‘willingness to act for group rather than individual benefit.’
The highest political teams in the country are the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. All MPs, MSPs and Assembly members in the case of Wales are elected. The Prime Minister leads the UK Parliament and the First Minister the Scottish one with the Leader of the Welsh Assembly completing the trio.
A similar, though more complicated system is embodied in the European Parliament with all 27 member countries sending elected representatives to Brussels and Strasbourg. There are people who are beginning to believe all these teams represent too much government!
Successful sports teams in football, rugby and cricket ascribe success and victory to excellent team play and defeats to the lack of it. With the Winter Olympics about to start in Russia and the Commonwealth Games later this year in Glasgow we will see a combination of individual and team endeavour to try to achieve victory. This will be both for the individuals and their countries. The aim of the Games has always been to bring nations closer together.
As John Donne, poet wrote ‘No man is an island entire of itself, because I am involved in Mankind.’ He wrote this in the 1600s. Another piece of ‘received wisdom is ’the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.’ A contrary view is he/she travels furthest who travels alone.’ Many world leaders, of all nationalities have followed this dictum from Napoleon through to Margaret Thatcher and others, with less noble motives in between.
In the world of business for some time now working in teams has been considered to be the most effective route to achieving success. The same applies to the third sector.
One crucial need for teams of people working together for a common cause is the Armed Forces. This has been displayed, as far as Britain is concerned, most recently in Afghanistan. My godson, who is a Captain in the Regiment of Scotland was badly shot in the leg whilst in Helmand province defending the soldiers in his charge. In turn, they were able to carry him away for medical treatment whilst still under fire. After 10 operations his leg has been saved and he can walk again. This could not have happened without the bravest of team work.
In the fields of research in science and medicine the majority of discoveries are made by teams working together to achieve common goals. This is, I believe, an important measure of a successful team when some new drug or procedure is discovered to benefit sick people.
The world of Education has always provided a start in life for children, and their teachers to work in teams. As some readers will know I have had a long career in Further Education and Politics. In my last article I wrote about the latter but, on reflection I think the former is more important because the seeds of success are sown early. I have also worked with young children and written about that experience too. When I worked in Further Education the young people were encouraged to work together and to help each other. The staff did the same and I still see former colleagues.
It is now more difficult, though not impossible, to achieve a team spirit with the advent of technology where work can be done in isolation – rather like writing! I also had the stimulating experience of working as a member of the team at the Association of Scottish Colleges to produce the Governance Code for Board members of colleges.
I should like to offer one or two thoughts with which to finish. I think it is possible to be both a leader and an effective team member. At school I was hopeless in the hockey time but great at long jump and tennis. Always I try, not totally successfully to lead where appropriate and to be part of the team when this is best for everyone not just me!
Christine Richard OBE is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.