Ditch the bus and get a boat

One of the most repeated lines about developing high performing teams is the often misquoted Jim Collins line about “getting the right people on the bus”.

I attended a workshop the other day where this line was used and then one of the participants in the workshop told a story that said so much more about teamwork and high performance than the bus analogy ever could.

So what’s wrong with “the bus”? Whenever I hear this, the image I see is one of one person in charge (the driver) and everyone else just sitting there doing nothing other than being there. To me, it arguably depicts presenteeism (being there but not productively).

The counterpoint in this workshop was a story of a rowing crew where they were all in tune on the team strategy. They were all aligned with what tactics they would deploy in different scenarios that might arise in the race and they trusted each other to do their bit as and when the particular scenario presented.

An approach that I prefer is to replace the bus with a rowing rig where everyone has to stroke in time and the cox (ie our business leader) is calling out the stroke keeping people informed on what is required at each stage of the race. Everyone is making a contribution here.

So, do yourself a favour – ditch the bus and get a boat if you want to give your people the right picture about what good leadership and teamwork looks like.