Journalism is a team sport

I’m developing a man crush.


I’m developing two man crushes.

(Or should that be men crushes? Where is someone who works with words for a living when you need him?)

And the targets of my bromantic affection have a couple of other things in common.

Firstly, they both wear specs – as I do.

More importantly, though, they are both experts in the analysis and development of team spirit.

My first hero is the man whose mission is to teach the world to sing, choirmaster Gareth Malone.

I have so much admiration for his ability to get people who have never met before to bond beautifully, and for his extraordinary skill in using music to transform self-esteem.

His latest work, with wounded servicemen and women, was – as always – hugely moving, and hugely positive.

My other inspiration is writer and leadership expert Simon Sinek.

He has more wisdom in his little finger than many FTSE 100 bosses have in their entire bodies.

Essentially his messages are about the long-term financial benefits of putting people before profits, and about the need for company purpose and integrity.

Interestingly, both Gareth and Simon have worked closely with the military in recent years, absorbing and reinforcing key lessons about sacrifice, camaraderie and teamwork.

I’ll be drawing on some Sinek wisdom tomorrow, when I pick up the threads of an editorial management training programme with some senior journalists.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan revived the phrase ‘politics is a team game’ at the weekend. But it’s a sentiment that could equally well be applied to journalism.

So tomorrow, we’ll be exploring what makes a great newsroom team, and putting some of my obsessions – from tea-making to early morning watercooler moments – under the spotlight.

A day later, I will hopefully be watching the seeds of teamwork come to fruition, as our third year students stage their own version of The One Show.

Students will admit that the dynamics of news days and news weeks can be a real challenge – particularly coping with roles that require leadership and decision-making.

They can be frustrated over their colleagues’ commitment and attendance, sensitive over criticism and feedback, and worried over divisions of labour.

All of which is brilliant preparation for life in a real newsroom.

A strong and supportive team spirit goes a long way in the teeth of what former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger memorably called a ‘force 12 digital hurricane’ as he stepped down from the paper’s Scott Trust this week.

When I ask journalists when they experienced team spirit at its best, the answer usually involves overcoming adversity together.

There may be no I in team.

But there’s one in pride and passion, satisfaction and sensitivity, and craic and creativity.

And it’s those qualities that I’ll be keeping my eye out for this week.



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