by Sharifa Medford

Celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of Independence are well underway, and to date, there have been numerous events and activities which were not only designed to be festive but to inspire Barbadians to reflect on their past before entering another 50 years of independence and beyond.

While the events so far have been successful, this success was not simply by chance. It was the result of the tireless efforts of the staff of the 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations Secretariat and their many partners. Nine dedicated officers, seconded from various governmental departments, have become a team to be reckoned with. Each one bringing their individual skills and unique qualities to the table; the amalgamation of which has morphed them into a high performance team.

This system may not seem very different to any other office or organisation, but indeed it is. These individuals, hidden away for hours on end, behind the walls of the Old Town Hall, have developed a system which has enabled them to live and work as a team.

Leader of this team, Permanent Secretary Gabrielle Springer, points out that the bond that exists today did not happen overnight. “It took patience, self-awareness, deep listening and empathy to get us to the point we are at now. Most of us did not know each other prior to coming to the Secretariat so there was an adjustment period where we got to know each other’s likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Once we got over that hurdle, there was a significant change in how we operated – we were no longer an office of people, we became a team”

Admitting that the journey from the launch of the 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations on January 6 this year has not been an easy road, Ms. Springer reveals how members of the team have managed to keep it together.

“We have enlisted the assistance of Verieux Mourillon a certified action learning coach and Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD). He is a consultant with the Caribbean Leadership Project and specialises in human and organisational performance development, change facilitation, team building and leadership development. We meet with him at least once a month to discuss any challenges and plan the way forward, together. With his coaching we are able to find solutions, develop approaches for future endeavours and foster closer relationships as a team,” she explains.

If you were to visit the Secretariat’s Cheapside office, on any given day, you would enter a hive of activity: persons hustling to and fro; someone in the middle of a telephone call explaining the upcoming activities; visitors to the office observing the memorabilia items on display, or officers rushing off to their second or third meeting for the day.

But with all that is going on, there is no sign of frustration or regret. Each person goes about their tasks dutifully, smiling, leaning on each other for support and anxiously ready to assist another member of the team if necessary.

According to the Permanent Secretary, the success of the Independence celebrations so far is based on the existing family-like setting within the Secretariat. “We look out for each other at work, and when required in our private lives. Like in any other organisation there are moments of disagreement, but when those moments arise, we refocus, talk things over and move on. We do not hold on to situations that would be counter-productive. We all know the importance of remaining focused.”

The formula created at the 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations Secretariat is one that can be bottled and reused by other organisations. The team-based approach has not only produced friendships, but has evoked a sense of trust and loyalty while motivating each member of staff to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that our island’s 50th Anniversary of Independence is written on history’s pages as a superbly-executed celebration of our nation’s milestone.