Teamwork : Looking After Your Staff To Achieve Higher Results

Martin Edwards, 38, is Chief Executive of Julia’s House, a UK Children’s Hospice. He has a BA Hons & Masters in Law from Oxford University, worked in Brand Management for Procter & Gamble and has raised over £10million for UK charities.


He is author of the ‘trusted leadership’ ethos detailed in     

Looking After Your Staff To Achieve Higher Results


‘Organisational culture’ may sound like a woolly phrase that has nothing to do with the bottom line, but its purpose is rooted in results: it is about achieving high performance and retaining good staff.


At Julia’s House, the Dorset Children’s Hospice in the UK, we have made considerable strides to ensure a working culture that people can thrive in. Here are some of the measures we have taken in an effort to be an excellent employer.




Each head of department produces a monthly report to our board of directors. We now circulate these to all staff so that people feel included and informed about what is going on throughout the organisation. Everyone has a copy of our Strategic Plan and questions on any of this information are welcome.




Team leadership is about soft skills as much as about having technical knowledge: managers need to know how to get the most out of different people. So we train line managers in how to manage people. Too many organisations fail to do this, assuming that technical knowledge is sufficient to lead people. In the words of champion US basketball coach Pat Summitt, one of the world’s highest paid leadership lecturers, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Central to our ethos is the belief that the role of a manager is not just to help achieve the organisation’s objectives, but to put in place the conditions that each person they manage needs in order to excel. This approach develops people’s potential.




Recently we put in place a Death-in-Service scheme free to all staff, to ensure that their relatives are looked after should the need ever arise. Soon we will launch an Employee Assistance Programme: a confidential counselling helpline that any staff can access to discuss personal problems that may ultimately affect their performance at work. And as the nature of our work is the care of life-limited children, we are enhancing the personal support for our Carers when they suffer the stress of a client bereavement.




We consulted staff about, and gained their agreement to, seven key values that describe good teamwork, communications, problem-solving and decision-making. These include:


  • Recognition that continuous improvement is vital to avoid standing still, and therefore it is important to be open to ideas and different perspectives.
  • Never commenting negatively about Julia’s House to anyone outside the organisation, but instead resolving any concerns internally. 
  • Explaining the reasons behind our decisions wherever possible.
  • Behaving with integrity at all times.
  • A responsibility culture not a blame culture: telling staff that the best thing they can do if they think they have made a mistake is to tell their manager so that we can sort it out quickly and without fuss.


Organisational culture is also about signals: the appearance as well as the actions of caring about people. This means actively listening and seeking ideas; managers spending time on the ‘shop floor’; an open-door policy; and re-aligning the staff chart to read left to right instead of the usual hierarchical design with the CEO at the top and the least heralded staff at the bottom.


The results of our actions are clear: in the last year we have achieved our objective of building a superb children’s hospice, nearly doubled our fundraising and quadrupled the care we provide for children in their own homes. This can only come about through the effective performance of teams.


Copyright Martin Edwards 2006

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