To talk about team-work is to talk about people. It is to talk about the dignity of people. It is to talk about a treasure. It is to talk about people with immense potential and tremendous possibilities. It is to talk about co-operative effort. It is to talk about a group of people endowed with various talents by the Creator, who delights in bestowing his blessings on all his children, whoever they may be and whatever their station in life may be.
So when we talk about team-work, we begin with a reflection, first of all, on the value of people and the respect which must be shown for every person. To speak about respect is to underline the confidence which we are called to have in people. To have a team there must be trust. People must have belief in each other. They must know beforehand that their views will be respected. They must know that they can be forthright and they must feel assured that they can challenge even well entrenched ideas and perceptions. People must be convinced that their own welfare is at stake in the success or failure of the enterprise.
A working team can exist only where there is the conviction that bold ideas are acceptable. Any endeavour in life which refuses to accept innovation, which refuses to be influenced by the burning needs of the times is doomed to failure. History has proven that while certain institutions have survived and even transformed society, others have collapsed and failed for want of understanding the signs of the times and the urgent need for adaptation.
Discipline is an indispensable ingredient for harmonious coming together. To exchange ideas, share one's perceptions and to co-operate for the common good, members of a team must be disciplined. They must control their emotions. They must not denigrate each other and attribute false motives to each other. They must learn when to speak and when to be silent, when to be firm and when to be resilient. They must learn to listen. Indeed, creative listening bears a power which can transform people's lives and their institutions. It is an attitude of mind, which is open to challenge, open to review, which puts a hold on one's emotions and one's ingrained perceptions and tendencies. It is a posture of humility and simplicity which disposes one to stop, look and think. We may need to go through a real agony to listen to people.
A few years ago, Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams, world famous lawn tennis players, in an interview explaining the strategy he exercised as coach of his daughter, Serena, had this to say: "Listening is the greatest tool on this earth that I am aware of."
For any enterprise to be successful, for any business to survive and fulfill its goal, it must endeavour to gain the confidence of the people whom it is committed to serve. People must be convinced that their own interests are at stake. If not the enterprise will not fulfill its mission. It will be a failure.
Today, we face a crisis of credibility in our country. This is of crucial importance. The main problem of Dominica, and, indeed, the main problem of the world today is a crisis of credibility. But, in Dominica, it is particularly so. There is the crisis of credibility in our political leaders, the crisis of credibility in our legal system, the crisis of credibility in our police, the crisis of credibility in civil society, the crisis of credibility in religious leaders.
Trust is not an absolute gift. What is the mainstay of marriage, of family life, is also the strength of a nation and of an institution or business enterprise. Trust can be lost. It can also be regained. We need to work hard at gaining and maintaining trust. Human relationships are very delicate things. We cannot play around with human beings merely as if they are things to be exploited for personal gain in any manner that pleases us.
Leadership is of crucial importance for the exercise of the team-work. No institution can survive and achieve anything without strong leadership. Someone must be able to set goals and guidelines for the institution. Leadership must not only be strong but it must also be inspiring. It must involve a solid commitment to all that is good and ennobling. In a sense, it must look beyond itself to the good of others.
Perhaps the best leader the West Indies has had is Sir Frank Worrell, former captain of the West Indies cricket team. Political leaders, social workers, teachers, sportsmen, businessmen can learn a lot from him. He was a man who combined strict discipline and authority with concern for his team members. In return, he received their respect and admiration.
Any leader in the West Indies must recognize the need for training not only in skills but also as regards awareness. There is often a gross lack of awareness even among educated people. We need to teach people to think and to think critically. We carry with us a heavy baggage of compliance. We need to teach people not to be cantankerous but to be positively open to questioning. This is essential for personal growth. It is also essential for business growth and for national development. With a firm sense of responsibility by team members, any institution can triumph over all adversity and be an instrument for progress and development in a country.
Here, in Dominica, historically, we are not noted for excellence in team-work. Rather, we have done better at individual performance. Honesty and integrity, commitment to a common goal and pride in achievement have not been our strong points. Often, there has been much narrow-mindedness. Jealousy has often marred the success of an enterprise. We need to know ourselves and endeavour to change. Any attempt to improve our business relationships must be accompanied by a firm resolution to seek personal human development and work towards solidarity for a common venture.