Learning from the best: British Army captain to reveal insight into team building at AM event

25 February 2016

Teamwork is the key to delivering the very best customer service and perhaps there’s no better example of how to successfully harness the potential of each individual for the good of the whole than the British Army.

Captain Gary Barrow (pictured) of the King’s Hussars will take to the stage at AM’s inaugural Customer Service Summit, invited by main sponsor and service plan provider EMaC.

Capt Barrow will provide a fascinating insight into how to build a team which delivers the very best results at the event at Whittlebury Hall, near Silverstone, on April 14.

He said: “The emphasis now is very much on ‘train in’ not ‘weed out’. 

“People are our edge, they are our greatest asset. We stress the importance of ‘the team’ over the individual to remove the sub-conscious tendencies of procrastination, poor attention to detail and a ‘look out for number one’ mentality.

“Mainly it’s about the importance of teamwork and the impact of allowing another to fail.  When things go wrong then attention is paid to the team as a whole, blame is not placed solely with the individual.”

Capt Barrow, who joined up at the age of 17 working his way through the ranks before becoming a commissioned officer, has served in several of the world’s war zones including three tours of Afghanistan, where in 2007 he was shot and wounded in his left shoulder and suffered RPG (rocket propelled grenade) fragmentation shrapnel to his legs.

In the Army, time spent focusing on team development is key with the best leaders being those who ensure all members can perform the fundamentals properly whilst business can apply much of the Army’s learning.

He said: “Firstly, the framework of the team is developed to ensure it is fit for purpose, including clearly defined job roles and responsibilities. 

“Then it is essential to know your teams, their individual strengths and weaknesses, ensuring they are correctly placed within the team to deliver success.

“Empowerment of team members to feel they are part of the solution, involved in the process and have a sense of worth is fundamental.  How this is harnessed and developed is the key to good leadership.”

Interestingly, there are several synergies with automotive retail which has a proud tradition of promotion from ‘the ranks’.

Capt Barrow said: “In the military the leader has more often than not, been in the positions that their team now occupy, due to a simple career framework and has usually succeeded in that role. On one hand, they can empathise from experience but also know what to realistically expect from the team members and so can apply appropriate motivation and encouragement when needed.”

Understanding the individuals which make the team tick is crucial as some people will not want to be creative, performing better under direction. Leaders need to be able to identify those people and react accordingly without falling into the trap of micro-managing the entire team.

“I have found that intelligent leaders or managers have sometimes lacked the wisdom and vision required to make good choices and tend to micro-manage through lack of trust in anyone but themselves. Micro-management can also be a reflection of the manager’s true understanding of the job.”

He concluded: “The similarity between my current organisation and yours is ‘our people give us the edge’.”

Finally, dealers who are recruiting could benefit from employing ex-servicemen and women, skills which Capt Barrow believes they bring to business include adaptability, commitment, confidence, teamwork and reliability.

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