High Performing Teams – Not What I was Expecting

The unstinting support of a Service person’s spouse, or life-long partner, is little recognised or appreciated by those outside of the relationship, and sometimes not even by both of those in the relationship!  Yet that support is essential for the Service person to perform at their best at work and the demands on the spouse are, at times, immense.  As is often said, the Long Service and Good Conduct medal, or the Continuous Campaign Service medal (or, quite frankly, both) really should be awarded to the partner rather than the Service person.

To make sure I recognised the importance of the support that my wife, Rachel, had given me throughout my career, a year before I was due to leave the Army I booked a table for two at L’Enclume in The Lake District, for a meal that Rachel had wanted to experience for many years.  This certainly wasn’t going to repay all that she had done for me, but it was at least recognition of that support.

Twelve months later, in November 2022, we spent a fabulous weekend (and small fortune) in the Lake District.  It could not have gone better and is an experience we will both cherish for the rest of our lives.  

What I was not expecting that night was being at the receiving end of service from the most high performing team I have ever seen in a non-military context.  The teamwork of the staff at L’Enclume was incredible.  It is too difficult to describe in a few short paragraphs, but it was like watching an exquisite ballet.  The understanding between colleagues, from the most junior waiter and novice chef to the maitre d’hotel, seemed telepathic.  Unrequested and unspoken, dishes were cleared, bottles of wine were passed and glasses topped.  Recognising what was happening at each table, staff altered course, engaged or disengaged and changed tact without missing a beat.  I was mesmerised.

I imagine that good recruitment and thorough training are the start points for L’Enclume’s inspiring teamwork, but more besides must be needed.  Five key tenets of high performing teams were clearly evident:

Collective Goals: the team was working with one clear goal in mind – to give the customer the best possible experience.

Engaged leadership: we spoke to two of the head waiters.  They were approachable and spoke to us politely and knowledgeably and we could see them doing the same with their team throughout the evening.

Clear communication: sometimes oral, sometimes by hand signal, messages were passed constantly throughout the team, simply and professionally.

Defined roles and responsibilities: each team member had a role and they clearly knew what was involved in achieving it, but they also demonstrated the knowledge and flexibility to cover for each other when necessary.

Trust: perhaps the most important aspect of high performance, in my view, and it came through in spades.  It was best exemplified by the maitre d’ calling on the newest and most junior chef to come and explain to us the course that he had designed and prepared, when we had a question about it.  Absolute trust in his skill as a chef and ability to engage with customers was obvious.  What’s more we could see that he was brimming with pride, not just because of where he was working but that he had been asked to come and talk to us.

These points are only part of L’Enclume’s recipe for success (yes, pun intended), I’m sure.  Hard work and dedication are the least of what else is involved.

Of course, in true military fashion, my service in the Army was extended and this evening never did quite mark the beginning of my second career as a civilian.  So far, Rachel has not hinted that she is still owed for the additional 6 month’s support.  Perhaps I should keep my head below the parapet.  

If you are interested in hearing more about my approach to leadership development and how I can help you and your organisation, then please get in touch at info@almacinspire.co.uk for a no-obligation chat to explore the possibilities.  Even if I can’t help, I may well know someone who can.

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