At the recent AGM, SENSE's Executive Committee (EC) installed three new members, myself included. For our first meeting in mid-April, we got together for a 'team building and website training day.' For me, the standout moment of the day was an animated discussion on how to chop a pepper. It embodied what teamwork is and illustrated why the EC needs to work as a team and how this will benefit SENSE and its members,
I'm sceptical of 'team building.' Maybe it's because my husband has herded sheep and spent hours communing with horizontal rain on Solex tours (yes, more than one) of the polder in the name of team building.
Sheep and Solexes were unlikely, but would we have to do trust exercises?
Luckily not. After learning how to hoist the SENSE flag for events (no, SENSE didn’t become a paramilitary organization when the SENSE constitution was amended last year), a round of ‘tell us a bit about yourself’ and some strategy brainstorming, it was time for the team-building proper to begin. Time to start doing rather than talking.
Jenny, our acting chair, had chosen the benign ‘make lunch together’ as the activity.
Before we could make our lunch – a dish called Shakshuka – we needed to do the shopping. While three of us headed off to the Albert Heijn at the end of the road, the others started chopping onions, in anticipation of the arrival of the other ingredients.
Yay, we’d allocated tasks. We were working as a team already!
But niggles emerge when you work with others. Wasn’t that too much oil in the pan? Wasn’t the flame too high? Wouldn’t it be better to crack the eggs into bowls first?
As mother of a teen and a tween, I’m learning it’s often best to keep your big mouth shut. Or in the words of the great oracle Ronan Keating, ‘You say it best when you say nothing at all.’ I’d assumed this worked best for teams too. Just let people get on with their oil-dispensing, onion-chopping, egg-cracking madness. Things should work out in the end.
But that was before the pepper discussion. The pepper revelation. As two of the EC chopped peppers they noticed they were using different pepper-chopping strategies! And started discussing them. And wondering if the other strategy might work better.
This is what teamwork is. It’s alright to comment on how people do things. But you have to pitch it right. And if you’re on the receiving end you need to be open to doing things differently.
Will the pepper revelation be emblematic of this EC? Will we be the Order of the Capsicum?
Will we discuss how to do our tasks? Will we offer and be open to suggestions? Let’s hope that this constructive and gezellige day bodes well for the future.
Marianne Orchard is on the SENSE EC and writes and edits the SENSE blog and newsletter. She is a freelance translator (Dutch to English), editor and writer who specializes in creative texts.