I had the pleasure of spending a day with Elinor Vettraino, a power lady involved in many Team Academy related activities in the UK. She is a programme director for the new TA programme in Aston University, Birmingham, she recently became a director of Akatemia CIC, a company that trains Team Coaches in the UK, she also launched the TA programme in Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln and much more. In this blog post with the help of Elinor, we get to discover what is going on in the UK.
The newest member of the family – Team Academy Aston, Birmingham
We are in Birmingham where Elinor is showing their premises at the Aston Business School and sharing the progress of the newest Team Academy in the UK. They started in September 2019 with a team of 5 teampreneurs. She shares how everything is going extremely well and even though they had only 5 people to start with, they have already 90 new applicants. This doesn’t mean they all will start, but that potentially around 30 of them will become teampreneurs in September. They will also start a Masters programme with the same principles following the Team Academy’s ethos. Their story is still young and it will be interesting to hear what the future holds for them.
Team Academy UK
So what’s happening with the wider Team Academy UK (TAUK) network? First of all, the network is growing. Even though the programmes are not often called Team Academies and they all might not follow the exact same model, they are all inspired by its principles, values and philosophy.
There have been programmes that have started but fallen. However, other programmes are growing. Bristol and Newcastle were the first two and they started in 2013. UWE in Bristol is doing extremely well with 60 new teampreneurs yearly and Northumbria University in Newcastle has been able to create some very high-level graduate companies, they are also UK’s top University for graduate start-ups. BGU in Lincoln has been running for six years already, even though they still have some challenges, hopefully the University is becoming more supportive of this innovative pedagogy. The Masters programme at the London College of Fashion has been a success and they have recruited more than they expected.
New ones are also on their way. Brighton Business School will start their programme this year (2020) and Liverpool John Moores University in the following year (2021). Discussions with many other Universities are also in progress.
Power of the network
The TAUK network is interesting as Universities by nature are very competitive, so nobody likes playing with anyone else. That’s why when Team Academies talk to each other is very odd for the universities.
Adrian Rivers from Bristol has taken the role of leading the Team Academy UK Higher Education network. Adrian is leading monthly programme leaders call, but he has also created a manifesto with the help of the network. And absolute to its core it’s got the original philosophical Team Academy values embedded in it. Now all the programmes inspired by this model have got something that they can say ‘yes we believe in that’. He also reached out to identify what people want the network to be and based on that a variety of different subgroups were created. For example, Elinor is leading a research group which is looking at creating an international research conference. As in the UK, if you want anyone to pay attention to you, you have to do it through research. She is also working with Berrbizne Urzelai on an international research book which includes journal articles, case studies and stories about Team Academy.
Team Mastery UK
How do the new universities learn about the Team Academy model? Akatemia CIC has been doing an amazing job of spreading the awareness of the philosophy. But the truth is that the model is not easy to sell. Elinor shares how Universities think they are buying a set of tools or techniques and actually that’s not true, as they are buying the philosophy. The challenge is that Universities might be using some of the tools already and for them, it’s difficult to understand why they would need to buy into the TA philosophy as well and what extra value would that create.
“Wait a minute, we need to give you a room on your own, we cannot possibly do that as we have problems with space already”.
They need to understand that they have bought into an approach to learning that requires a dedicated space Elinor clarifies. “Like if you were going to teach surgery and you tried to do it in the gym hall, well that wouldn’t be appropriate as for that you would need a proper surgery table.”
Akatemia CIC has also supported the growth by running Team Coach training programmes. 8th programme is starting soon and over the years they have trained around 80 team coaches. Alison Fletcher and Robert Goodsell have done a great job and now Akatemia also has two new directors, Elinor and Professor Gurpreet Jagpal, currently the Director of the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at UWE. This means responsibilities can be spread and for example, Elinor has now taken the role of programme manager for the Team Mastery training moving forward.
The Coaching programme has developed a lot over the years. It enables the participants to get an idea not just about TA process, but also about why does it exist and why is it different. It has four modules over a period of 9 months, but it also includes an orientation which allows the participants to be sure the programme is for them.
Personal successes and failures – Elinor Vettraino
It was difficult for Elinor to identify her successes as a team coach, as she felt that the successes of the teams and team companies were more about their hard work and effort, than hers. Even though to some extent the coach creates the environment, but the coach cannot change anyone else’s behaviour. But there was something else she felt she had succeeded in.
“I am proud of the Business and Enterprise area in BGU. When I joined BGU in 2015 my role was to set up this subject discipline within the university and they had already made the courageous decision to have their flagship programme be the BA (Hons) Business (Team Entrepreneurship) degree which is based on the Team Academy philosophy. Within five years we had two degrees running, research started, and also commercial activity. Chris Jackson is the Programme Leader and Head Coach now at BGU and it’s great to see him taking the programme forward with so many inspirational ideas. So I’m proud of having played a part in kicking that off.”
During her coaching career she has also failed, but most importantly, she has learned from it as well. “I am interventionist by nature, not that I want to solve the problems, but I want to get involved in what’s going on. One of the things I struggle with is to sit back and not speak.”
Elinor shares that she is a lot better at it now, but when she first started in Lincoln she had some challenges with a team that had some issues, and teampreneurs with plenty of excuses. In one of the coaching sessions where yet again something had happened and the team was going around in circles, Elinor intervened: “Because I was getting so annoyed, I joined in. I was like ‘you never turn up, why do you expect your team to support you’.”
That caused the whole team to get annoyed and that’s when Elinor realised what she had done. “I got so involved with the issue that I didn’t do my job as a coach. That was a failure in my part, the success of that was that I realised it and was able to withdraw.”
She left the room and came back some time later. When she came back the team asked her what had happened. “I explained to them that I was coaching their problem and not their process. I was getting so involved, because I care but it’s the wrong thing to do, I was not responsible for their lack of action, they were. My job was to coach them through the process of that.”
There was one more thing Elinor felt very passionate about and that’s the international network. “This network is a real beast, it’s a living breathing thing. It is rare to find colleagues from a range of different countries, particularly in academia, who will naturally share programmes, ideas, support and information. That’s quite unique and I don’t think we make enough of that.” She feels that there is an opportunity for us to do more collaboration, not in a financial sense, but in support and learning value. One opportunity is the research conference, which would be ideally held in November in the Global Entrepreneurship Week. It would be a conference with a twist, it could include opportunities for professional development and potentially have something on alternative and more unique research methodologies. At the moment, the conference is really aimed at raising the research profile of Team Academy based programmes across the world, and therefore it is more focused at Higher Education/Universities. But Elinor keeps dreaming about something bigger than that.
During my visit to Birmingham, she mentioned this idea about a Global Platform, a platform that would connect people from all around the network and beyond. A platform for those interested or working in team learning, team coaching and Team Academy based pedagogy. It’s an idea that she is developing in conversation with colleagues from Proakatemia and she is keen to have others involved in the discussion. Is this something you would be interested in?
Writer Nina Jussila, Certified Tiimiakatemia Team Coach
* If you want to connect with Elinor about the global platform, drop her an email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with her on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-elinor-vettraino-17b3182b/