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Building a thriving team

Creating a high-performing and engaged team is one of the biggest challenges people managers face. We sat down with our Auckland Delivery Manager and Younity Director, Mark Warren to hear how he builds a team that is empowered, connected and thriving in a highly competitive sector.

Mark Warren, Director and Auckland Delivery Manager

How do you create an amazing team?

It starts with our values.  Buying into our values, creating a culture, having responsibility, and taking responsibility for that culture. 

I try to get our team to understand that culture is not just the responsibility of the management, it’s the responsibility of every individual. And that’s not just about their input into it, but it’s about them calling bad behaviour out or saying, hey, that’s not how we how we tick here. 

We don’t have a huge amount of that, but we want people to be stewards of the culture and take responsibility for it.

How do you unite a team? What makes up a good team?

As far as bringing a team together, I think people always sort of say ‘oh, you need to bring like-minded individuals together’, I don’t know if I agree with that. I think you need a bit of diverse thinking; you need a few different angles, people who think in different ways.  I think the idea is that you get people with the right value set.

It sounds sort of, you know, what your mum would say, but it’s people who have been brought up well and got an ethic and manners, who know how to interact with people and can understand how what they say, or what they do, affects others. 

A bit of emotional intelligence, that’s what we recruit for. And then I guess you’ve got to trust the chemistry that happens when these people come together.

What is your management style? What have you learnt about leadership?

I’m a hard-wired recruiter and managing at team has come when we’ve started to run our own business. So, I’ve tended to be a little bit more like a dad – I’d try to fix everything, you know, come to me and I’ll sort it out for you.

But I’ve learned that it’s the old phrase that you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach him to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

I try to empower and encourage my team. We sort out stuff by connecting, by going ‘hey I don’t agree with that, let’s talk rationally’. It’s not going into a room to win an argument. I want us to come out of there where we have a way forward and we are going to be sweet, so I try to work it that way and give them tools and advice.

How do you keep your team connected?

We try and get our people together weekly for a caffeinated catch up, which is just us getting together as people, not talking about anything work related.  Once a month we also go out for lunch, we do quite a bit of social stuff.  Like tonight we’re going bowling, and we’ll have a few drinks but you’re not getting smashed, it’s just going out and hanging out.

It’s hugely important to recognise that we’re humans, not just colleagues.

I think people like to have that separation between work and personal life, but it’s also important that you spend some time together as a team when you’re not talking about work, you know, where you connect in other ways.

How do you keep a focus on delivery?

What we did is we built in five core delivery values that we live by and hold each other accountable to, so our team are very aware of what needs to be done straightaway and what a priority is.

And they might be having a right old laugh doing the quiz or something but if a job comes in, it’s kind of like, you know when the firemen get the bell, and they are down the pole, and they’re off? Yeah, it’s kinda like that!

How do you manage conflict in your team?

Devils’ advocate is the obvious one. Usually when there’s a situation they’re ticked off about it’s one sided, and there’s always two sides to every story. It’s always nuanced.

So, it’s me being able to imbibe that and to ask some questions that won’t inflame it and get some information. To gently go, ‘well, have you thought that maybe this is why you got that reaction?’.

My phrase whenever you are going into these issues-based sort of situations is ‘I guarantee you, you’re right and you’re wrong’.  And they are right, and they are wrong, the answers in the middle, it always is.

In this business there’s a lot of strong-willed people and of course there are differences of opinion, but I guess what we teach our guys is that they are just that, differences of opinion.  We are all pulling in the same direction, they are all going for the same goal, sometimes they just got different opinions on how they are going to get there.

And again, whenever those differences of opinion come about the answers are usually in the middle.

What’s your take on diversity in your team?

Diversity is so important. Not just because of the roots of the situation that has required some people to look at diversity, but just generally for the mix of people, different viewpoints, different ways of thinking.  This can be so beautiful.

People look at diversity sometimes as an obligation.  I look at it as an opportunity.  I look at it as like, wow, look at what you can create when you’re conscious of having different backgrounds, different ways of looking at things, coming together.

When we go back to our core values – well brought up and good ethic, good manners – diversity has no effect on them, you’ll get people with those values from all walks of life. I can’t understand how they got on in an “un-diverse” world, cause a bunch of the same demographic together, that must have been hell!

I guess from our perspective, we are about whoever can do the job and whoever’s the best person with the right experience and skills.

How do you give back?

A key aspect of our philosophy is that we want to give back, we want to make our community better. We’ve got a value set which is around our ‘We believe’ statement.  And one of the big principles that we believe in is to leave our community in a better place.

That’s not just our community as in our local community, but our work community and the tech community in New Zealand.

I think if we can contribute to getting more kids from all kinds of backgrounds to learn more about technology, especially kids who might not necessarily have access to stuff like technology and devices, if we can help there, then I think it’s very cool.

Does Younity sound like a place you’d love to work?

If you’re an experienced Recruitment Consultant or Candidate Manager/Sourcing Specialist and you’re interested in joining our team, get in touch with Mark ( in Auckland, or Amanda ( in Wellington. We’d be happy to get in touch to arrange a confidential discussion and talk about potential opportunities.

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