On team building, timelines and Gillian McKeith

On November 17th I went to Halifax to spend a day with the co-ordinating team of Suma Wholefoods. In terms of workers’ co-operatives where everyone is paid the same, Suma is the largest in Europe.

The team meet regularly, and already work well together, but wanted to spend a few hours together to look at how they work as a team, and think about whether there is anything they can improve.

The theme for the day was provided by the quotation which says that we connect through our similarities but we learn from our differences. We spent the morning on the former: the afternoon on the latter. In the morning the team especially valued putting together a timeline of Suma’s history. It reminded them of some of their successes and gave them a shared sense of their past. It challenged one of my stereotypes as well – I’d never seen Gillian McKeith rated as a good thing before. In the afternoon we practised two of the skills for working with difference: good listening; and looking for win-win in difficult situations.

We managed to play five different games in the course of our four hours together. What struck all of us was how different people were key in different games and activities. It was a reminder to everyone of what a variety of strengths there are in the team, and the value of thinking, whenever problems arise, about whose strengths to draw on.

In terms of feedback from the participants…. here’s what they said:

“The session went really well. … and everyone said that it was valuable and time well spent… they all felt that the pace of the training was spot on.”