Category Archives: Teamwork

‘Edge Moments’ Interview With Rachael Robertson

Rachael Robertson was just the second female to lead the Australian Antarctic Expedition for a 12 month period. As you can imagine such extreme conditions require you to find ways to lead when there is literally nowhere to hide.

View this interview where Rachael explains how it came to pass that a woman without a scientific background found herself leading up to 120 people in the Antarctic. Rachael’s insights about leadership and ‘Edge Moments’ are nothing short of powerful.


Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
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Theory Explains Aussie Test Team Issues

Mention the word ‘theory’ and people go scurrying like cockroaches in the kitchen when the lights are turned on!

“Theories aren’t relevant” you might say. Hmmm, that reads like a theory to me!

Seriously, we use theories all the time. The problem is that many of them aren’t grounded in research. But here’s one that is. Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development which was first proposed in 1965.

“Gee, that’s too long ago!” others of you might say. Well, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was developed between 1907 – 1915. The issue with theories is not when they were developed but whether or not they are useful.

Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development is useful in explaining the current challenges facing the Australian Cricket Test Team and the challenges faced by the leaders of the team. To keep a complex issue as simple as possible to understand, the team is stuck between the first two stages of team development. These stages are Forming and Storming.

The characteristics of the Forming stage are:

  • People are leaving the team;
  • New people are being added to the team; and
  • Individuals have a high desire to focus on routines and to not generate conflict.

Rotation policies and team member retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have seen the the membership of the Australian Test Squad constantly changing over the past year.

While new members to the squad will behave in alignment with the Forming Stage of Team Development, more experienced team members are unlikely to realise that the team has gone ‘back’ to the Forming Stage and will therefore try to behave in alignment with the Norming and/or Performing Stages of Team Development. This means that the team then finds itself constantly in a state of flux which in turn means that the team is stuck in the Storming Stage.

The characteristics of the Storming Stage of Team Development are:

  • Team members are unsure of their role;
  • Team members are unsure of their security;
  • Team members are unsure of the leadership;
  • Trust is low throughout the team; and
  • Problems are surfaced.

The Storming Stage is a healthy stage for teams to go through, but it isn’t a healthy stage to stay in

I read with interest in The Age this morning that Michael Hussey revealed that he kept his intentions to retire private because he didn’t trust that he wouldn’t be replaced by a more junior player if he revealed his intentions to retire. This is a classic Storming Stage behaviour. Coming from such a senior player in the team it is indicative of what was really going on for the whole team.

The characteristics of the Norming Stage are:

  • The problems surfaced during the Storming Stage have been identified and resolved;
  • The team’s goals and understood, agreed upon and come first;
  • Some team members will have accepted that they must put their own desires behind those of the teams; and
  • The team works as one to achieve it’s shared goals.

 The characteristics of the Performing Stage of Team Development are:

  • The team members have a fluid approach to how they work with and support each other;
  • Their is both individual and collective responsibility and accountability for the team;
  • Team members compliment each other and compensate for any flaws; and
  • Results are achieved.

How to use this theory to help the Australian Cricket Test Team
Many people don’t understand that when a team changes it’s membership, even if only by one person it goes back to the Forming Stage of Team Development. So moving through the stages is iterative rather than linear, depending on what is happening with the team. The Stages of Team Development can be moved through very quickly when people understand them.

In this context the Australian Test Squad needs to be stabilised. If a player becomes injured and therefore needs replacing, team management need to quickly help the whole team move through the Forming and Storming Stages of Team Development.

Secondly the Norming Stage needs to be focused upon so that the team has a chance to move into the Performing Stage. Due to the iterative nature of the Stages of Team Development, movement through the Stages of Team Development is not linear. You may move from Forming to Storming, but get stuck at Storming. You may move from Storming to Norming, but get ‘stuck’ at Norming. Your team membership may then change, moving back from Norming to Forming. ‘Progress’ through the stages does follow a linear pathway. Storming represents progress from Forming. Norming represents progress from Storming and ultimately Performing represents progress from Norming. This means that teams don’t ‘leap-frog’ a stage going ‘up’ the Stages, but they can ‘tumble’ down the Stages and leap-frog them on the way down. In this respect it is possible to go from the Performing Stage to the Forming Stage literally overnight.

What is fascinating to watch is that when people don’t understand how this theory works, who do you think they tend to blame for a team ‘not being the same’ when it’s membership changes? Yes, you got it right. The last person to join the team.

While I have focused on the Australian Cricket Test Team for this article, the same can be said for any team. What Stage of Team Development is your team in? What are the signs that you are seeing that are providing the evidence for your answer. With this understanding, what can/should you do about it?

Gary Ryan is the founder of the Teams That Matter® approach to high performing teams.

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
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Don’t Kick The Cat!

There used to be a saying that when you’d had a hard day at work, when you got home you should ‘kick the cat‘ before you went in the house. This theory was based on the idea that if you ‘kicked the cat‘ then you could let out your aggression and everything would be okay when you went inside.

Thankfully such thinking is long gone! Not only would it be politically incorrect to take such action, it would be morally and legally inappropriate! So please, don’t kick your cat.

Unfortunately, however, this metaphor is alive and well in ‘Organisation Land’. Maybe some of you have been the ‘cat‘ who has been ‘kicked‘ (metaphorically speaking).

A case in point. A client of mine has a national sales role. In 2010, prior to her taking on the role the sales team failed to achieve their prescribed 2010 targets.  In 2011 they just achieved their prescribed targets. Celebrations followed. The ‘cat‘ was patted.

In 2012 they just missed their prescribed targets after having been ahead of them for most of the year. What do you think is happening now? Yes, you guessed it, the ‘cat‘ is being ‘kicked‘. Apparently in ‘Organisation Land’ kicking the cat inspires the cat to higher performance. What do you think?

Personally I have never found getting kicked motivating. Unfortunately I am hearing more and more stories like this.

In this specific example my client was informed by senior managers that she and her team would be trusted to contribute to the targets process once they could be trusted to achieve them. Interesting logic, that!

Let me just walk through that logic again. Once the team regularly achieve budgets that they had no input in creating, that’s when they will be trusted to put forward budgets in the future. Oh, by the way I should mention that I’m not talking about junior staff here. I’m talking about staff with a minimum of seven years experience. There’s a lesson in how to de-motivate people right there!

Kicking the cat‘ creates demotivated and disengaged staff. Seriously, if you think that such behaviour really motivates people to perform at a higher standard, you probably also believe that if you go outside and yell at your grass to grow that it will! I’m sorry to let you down but both strategies don’t work.

Folks, growth doesn’t happen in straight lines, not in the short term that’s for sure. Linear growth expectations are flawed and ultimately cause senior managers to do ‘kick the cat‘ type behaviours.

My client is a wonderful, high performing person. She did amazingly well to achieve her result in 2011 and also did amazingly well given local economic conditions to achieve what she did in 2012. I doubt that any other team could have matched her teams performance. Yet do you think she is feeling valued right now?

You know what’s going to happen, don’t you? This high performer will leave and will end up serving another organisation more worthy of her commitment. ‘Kicking the cat‘ doesn’t work so if you’re one of the guilty ones who does this behaviour, stop! Treat your people like human beings – you may just be surprised by how well they shine.

If targets aren’t achieved by experienced, engaged people, then sit down with them and work together to work out what can be done. Maybe achieving the 2012 target in 2013 would be, in reality, a success. Just giving people bigger numbers to achieve because it is a new budget cycle is seriously flawed and lacks using the knowledge, talent and expertise that exists within organisational teams. People don’t want to fail. People don’t try to fail. Not most people. Work with people so success over the long term can be achieved. It is possible.

What’s your experience of being ‘kicked’?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Increasing Team Member Motivation – Audio Version

If you are leading a team within a poor company culture, how can you increase the motivation of your team members? Gary Ryan explains a series of practical behaviours that a Team Leader can do that will enhance the self-motivation of their team members.

Find out more about creating Teams That Matter® here .

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Great Service The Fijian Way

Recently I had the great pleasure to take my family on a vacation to Fiji to celebrate a relatives wedding. We stayed at the Outrigger on the Lagoon which is located near the small town of Sigatoka on Fiji’s main island.

The resort is on land that is owned by the two local villages and the vast number of staff have been recruited from those villages. From the moment we arrived until the moment we departed the resort we could not have had a more wonderful time. My wife and I, our five children and nearly 60 relatives and friends were not only impressed by the physical standards of the resort, but more importantly the staff who were always smiling and happy to please.

The talented Erami leads a water aerobics class

Despite talking about ‘Fiji time’, a reference to taking time to get things done, our experience was that requests of staff were always met by prompt responses and action, something that service and hospitality organisations here in Australia could learn from.

The culture of teamwork and the desire to create a wonderful experience for guests was self evident for our entire visit. Due to the genuinely friendly nature of the staff you could not help but make ‘friends’ with them. One of the staff with whom I had the pleasure to speak with at length was Moses Saukalou, one of the hospitality managers with vast experience who managed a large team of staff.

When I asked Moses about what drove the staff to be so friendly and willing to work, despite their relative poor pay (by Australian standards) he told me that the answer lay in their culture of respect.

“Respect is something that we value and it is taught to our children from a very young age. That is why it comes across as being genuine – because it is!”.

The staff work six days per week and many of them were multi-talented, being able to speak several languages, do public speaking, take water aerobics, weave baskets and hats and serve incredible cocktails as well as singing. And what I have just described is the skills of a single employee!

Singing good-bye on our final morning

When the staff heard of our imminent departure during our breakfast on the final morning of our visit, they gathered in front of us and sang us a good-bye song. While the staff were singing to us another team member came forward and explained the meaning of the words to us. We were being thanked for visiting their land and they were wishing us a safe journey home. It was very moving and once again was not contrived – it was genuine. We really felt like we were leaving special people. My brother, who was with us with his family mentioned how emotional he found the experience, a comment that was uncommon from him.

It was really us who should have been saying thank you, or as they do in Fiji, “Vinaka!”.

There is a lot that can be learned from the Fijians with regard to how important it is to have respect for other people at the heart of your approach to delivering service excellence.

And ‘deliver’ is exactly what the staff at the Outrigger on the Lagoon in Fiji certainly did!

Gary Ryan saves you time by helping you to know what to do to raise service standards in your organisation

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
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Making a difference – Four extraordinary women and the power of purpose

What’s the acronym for ‘make a difference’?


That’s exactly what scores of people said to Michelle, Nicky, Maureen and Jan when they told people they were going to do the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker event in Melbourne, Australia to raise much needed funds for the important work that Oxfam does around the globe.

At the time of posting this article Team Make a Difference (M.A.D.)  had raised over $11,000 – a remarkable effort in a time when raising money has become very difficult due to challenging economic circumstances for many people.

It is important to recognise differencemakers because they set the example for how ‘ordinary’ can become ‘extraordinary’. In this case I think it is fair to say that our four differencemakers above were already extraordinary before the event, but having finished the walk they are even more extraordinary than ever.

When I talk about extraordinary let’s look at some highlights from each of our differencemakers.

Michelle, my wife is the mother of five children ranging from 12 years old to 20 months old. Need I say more!

Nicky is equally as extraordinary being a mother of three young boys ranging from seven through to 23 months old.

Jan is a mother of a five year old and someone who has saved countless wildlife from death in her role as a wildlife volunteer, personally caring for injured and sick wildlife until they recover and are able to be returned to their habitats.

Maureen is the veteran of the group being 60 years old and this year completed her third Oxfam Trailwalker – completing one is an extraordinary effort let alone having now completed three!

What is also wonderful about this story is that Michelle, Jan, Maureen and Nicky are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extra-ordinary people. The sea of support led by Harry Lowe was something to behold.  Each person volunteered one of the greatest gifts that anyone can give another person, cause or both: their time!

In this context I believe that it is important to recognise each person because, quite simply, Team Make a Difference could not have raised their funds nor finished the walk without the support of their team.

I understand that you see lists of names all the time. However I urge you to look at each name and recognise that there is a human being behind that name – a human being that subscribed to a purpose bigger than themselves and in the small and large ways contributed to making a positive difference.

From left: Jan, Nicky, Maureen and Michelle

Team Make a Difference support crew
Harry Lowe, Christine Sellar, Loreto Ryan, Heather Cecil, Mark Cecil, Merrell Harris, Julie Davenport, Liam Ryan, Sienna Ryan, Callum Ryan, Aiden Ryan, Darcy Ryan, Jonathan McKeown, Anthony McKeown, Hugh Mckeown, James McKeown, Karen Lowe, Lehela Manoel, Mark Mattrow, Gemma Mattrow, Evelyn Devitt, Rosey Cullinan, Geri Burns and Mark Burns.

Support crew celebrate finishing the event with the girls!

In addition to these special people recognition must also go to everyone who donated to Oxfam, attended the fundraising event and/or simply spread the word about what was happening.

I have been involved in the Oxfam Trailwalker event before, but this time was extra special. Without a doubt the bigger picture that Team Make a Difference was striving to support was truly engaged by all team members and their support crew. While simple in words the purpose of making a positive difference for the less fortunate in the world through participating in the Oxfam Trailwalker event proved itself to be extaordinarily powerful.

And shared purpose is extremely powerful.

Originally the team had aimed to raise $5,000 but this total was surpassed by a single fundraising event that itself raised $6,300.

Jan, Maureen, Nicky and Michelle thank you for being extraordinary and in being so enabled so many more of us to be extraordinary too.

Donations are still open so please feel free to donate to Oxfam here.

Gary Ryan helps Senior and Developing Leaders achieve high performance through enabling their people to shine.

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Usefulness is more important than complete accuracy when using Personality Profiling tools for teams

There are many personality profiling tools. Myer-Briggs (MBTI), DISC, OPQ and Wave are a number of the more commonly used approaches. Technically they are hard to separate although the Wave (to which I am licensed) is able to provide evidence that it is superior to the rest.

From a personal development perspective I advocate the use of any one of the abovementioned tools. I strongly encourage that they be used with support from experts.

Where I don’t advocate the use of these tools is with teams.

I don’t say this because I think the tools are poor – rather they are too complex for most people to make them useful from an ongoing perspective.

When I conduct team development programs I ask the participants if they have ever completed any personality profile assessments. A large percentage of people indicate that they have completed assessments, but their memory of what the results meant is limited.

“I did the MBTI and I think I was an extravert…” is as much detail as most people can muster.

When I ask how the tool was used to improve the performance of a team people struggle to provide clear examples. However they add, “…but I thought it was really interesting and learnt a few things about myself.”

The issue here is that we need to use team profiling tools that are memorable and useful. It is for this reason that I use the What Makes People Tick Personality Profile tool. I’ll be the first to admit that the science behind the tool is nowhere near the sophistication of a DISC or the OPQ. What is important is that the tool is easy to remember and therefore apply. You don’t have to be an expert on the tool to be able to apply its lessons within your team.

This is a significant problem I find with a lot of the other tools. You virtually have to be an expert in them to be able to apply them in a team setting. Most people are too busy being experts in their own fields and simply don’t have the mental ‘space’ to become an expert ion personality profiling tools.

A case in point. When recently facilitating a team development program, the youngest person in the room (a 26 year old) was able to provide a detailed description of the What Makes People Tick approach. He was able to accurately remember and describe the four personality types as well as how they were used to help improve team performance. This person was not university qualified yet he knew more about the practical application of techniques to manage personality differences that the vast majority of university graduates with whom I have worked.

This was despite it being a full two years since he had worked with the team where he had been exposed to the tool. No one else was able to provide any examples regarding the practical application of the tools they had used.

What Makes People Tick uses only two sets of dimensions from which a person’s profile is derived. They are:

  • Introversion/extraversion
  • People focus/task focus

The combination of these dimensions result in a people having a combination of four preferred ‘windows’ through which they make sense of the world. These four windows are:
  • Introversion/people focus
  • Extraversion/people focus
  • Introversion/task focus
  • Extraversion/task focus

The memorability aspect of this tool derives from the descriptions that Des Hunt, the creator of the profile then added to each of the above windows.
They are:
  • Dove
  • Peacock
  • Owl
  • Eagle

The majority of people are able to describe some of the key behavioural characteristics of these birds without being an expert on the tool. They are able to do this because of the differences that the images of the birds demonstrate. When the characteristics are applied to humans people have a lot of fun but are also able to make sense of how the personality differences can generate unhealthy conflict within a team. Conflict that is often hard to ‘pinpoint’ yet makes complete sense when the ‘bird’ profiles are discovered.

More importantly people are able to quickly identify strategies for managing the differences.

For examples, ‘Peacocks’ are ideas people who like to follow their gut instincts. Owls, on the other hand are conservative and like data to support decisions. It’s not hard to imagine how such differences in preferences could generate problems.

Armed with this knowledge the Peacock could engage another Owl to do some research for them to find some facts to support their idea. Armed with the facts the Peacock could then present the idea to the Owl. Similarly the Owl can choose to be more forgiving of the Peacock. They might also choose to do their own research on how often the Peacock’s ideas have been useful. Upon discovering a high percentage the Owl could use this data to support the Peacock in going with their intuition. The simplicity of the tool enhances its functionality.

What tools have you used and how useful have they been from the perspective of helping to improve team performance?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Expert Tip – Motivation Factor 3

In the fourth of the short videos in the 11 part series on how to create motivated employees, I share the third of 10 key factors that when present will collectively enhance the motivation of your team members/employees.

How do you rate for this factor?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at

Expert Tip – Motivation Factor 1

In the second of the short videos in the 11 part series on how to create motivated employees, I share the first of 10 key factors that when present will collectively enhance the motivation of your team members/employees.

How would you rate for this factor?

For more information on all 10 factors and the underlying belief, visit the OTM Academy.

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at