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"Thursday Thinking"

©2019 by Weaving Futures. 

  • Carolyn Stuart

Is your team a lily or a gerbera?

Recently I have been facilitating a series of workshops with the Leadership Team from Mercury Bay Area School. As part of our work together I asked John Wright, the principal, to share with us the story he wanted to be able to tell at the end of 2020.

Curiously he produced a bouquet of flowers and gave each of us a single lily from the bunch, which he asked us to examine closely.

John’s background was in biology and he proceeded to use his scientific knowledge to teach us about the individual parts that made up the lilies we were each holding in our hands. He told us that lilies were an example of a “simple” flower.

Next he gave us a gerbera (a big daisy - similar to a sunflower) and asked us to look carefully and deeply at that flower. He then explained that the gerbera was an example of a complex flower - a member of the Compositae family and that it was in actual fact a large number of single flowers that had come together, over time, to form on one stem to appear as though the flower itself was one.

Looking carefully at the centre of the flower, the petals and sepals, stamens, pistils of the gerbera, we could in fact see the myriad of individual flowers - having the same components as the lily, yet looking like one flower. Having multiple flowers on one stem gave the gerbera a much greater chance of survival for a variety of reasons - pollination etc - than single flowers such as lilies. It was and is a sophisticated adaptation to a competitive, changing world.

For John, a gerbera symbolised the story he wanted to be able to tell at the end of the year. Within the organisation he leads, and in particular within his Leadership team, he knows that strength lies in the coming together and alignment of each individual leader, as though they were one flower.

Whilst the lily is able to hold itself on its own modest stem, the only way a gerbera can hold all the component flowers, is through a strong, robust stem. For any team this stem is built on relational trust, safety with others, honesty, connection, and authenticity.

This stem holds us all securely to undertake our collective and individual roles.

What a great analogy of an effective team. All the individual parts functioning on their own but on the outside functioning as one team.

So how might we go about forming these teams?

  1. Have a goal or shared purpose that brings you together as a team. This might be a shared organisational vision and mission or it might be a common cause that has united you into one team

  2. Acknowledge that everyone is an individual, with unique gifts and capabilities that combine with the gifts and capabilities of others to complete the team.

  3. Have a deep understanding of what each person brings to the team, ensuring a rich and fertile soil for individual and professional growth

  4. Have strong interpersonal relationships which provide the glue that holds the team together and allow you to act as one.

So what sort of flower is the team to which you belong? Is it a team made up of lilies, all beautiful in their own right but highly vulnerable as they seek to survive on their own, atop of a flimsy stem, or is your team a gerbera, lots of individual flowers coming together on one strong stem knowing that you are truly stronger together?

My thanks to John for providing me with the scientific expertise and leadership wisdom for this post and to the amazing leadership team at Mercury Bay Area School for the mahi we are doing together.

Til next time


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