Three insights from ultimate team players

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What makes successful teams work and how can employers instil that across their own organisations? It’s a tricky question that every HR professional will have asked themselves and now, one industry expert is taking significant steps in an effort to find out.

Dan Stones is a self-described team dynamics specialist and works with businesses to build better teams and stronger cultures – however, he also hosts a niche podcast which seeks to uncover what’s at the very heart of successful team players.

Dubbed “Barnraisers”, the podcast features interviews with some of the world’s ultimate team-players including Olympic athletes, internationally renowned musicians and best-selling authors.

Here, HRD caught up with Stones to hear about the stand-out insights and to find out which lessons he found most memorable.

The first came from Mark Gallagher, who spent more than 20 years in various senior positions within Formula One, including as the head of marketing on management board of Jordan Grand Prix, head of commercial affairs for Red Bull Racing and business unit leader for Cosworth F1.

“We were talking about feedback and Mark said that feedback is only valuable when it’s focussed on how we can do things to get better next time,” says Stones.

“He said that, in Formula One, nobody really cares about what happened, so a bad pit-stop or a crash between teammates usually gets forgotten quickly by the team because the focus is always about what we can learn and share about what happened in order to make us better next time,” continues Stones. “That was his secret to how you improve 100ths of a second at a time – that’s where the focus has to be.”

It’s a lesson that can clearly be applied in context to other, more traditional, workplaces.

“If you have that attitude then people won’t be so afraid of making a mistake because that mistake could be the most valuable thing that a team does all week,” says Stones. “If that mistake wasn’t made and I didn’t share it and wasn’t willing to talk about it then we never would have got to where we are now, I just thought that was so powerful on so many levels.”

Another insight that Stones says sticks in his mind comes from acclaimed speaker and bestselling author Greg Reid who shared a series of emails.

“Greg showed me the impact of a genuine compliment and how easy it is to make a positive contribution in someone else’s life,” says Stones.

“There is vulnerability in giving a compliment because if you’re trying to climb the corporate ladder, you might subconsciously think you can’t give you too many compliments because then all of a sudden that person might overtake you,” he continues. “But that stops so much progress and momentum and so many good things can happen from it.”

Finally, Stones says improvisation actor Adam Hembree also shared an incredibly memorable insight when he was asked who he sees as an ultimate team player.

“He thought for a while and I was waiting for a well-known entertainer or philosopher or sports person to come out but he said; ‘You know in the school yard, when everyone’s playing soldiers or cops and robbers, the best team player is the kid who falls down and pretends to be dead when he’s shot.’

“I loved that answer and it’s one I’ll never forget,” says Stones.


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