An organization’s success most of the time depends on its leadership, the kind of vision its leaders have and the way they set the direction. Every successful leader needs a team that stays on top of the game, has the ability to understand the vision and implement it through driving action, the tenacity to withstand pressure and change in an ever evolving world, the flexibility to be nimble footed and improvise based on the situation and the capability to lead when required .
To quote Babe Ruth, the famous base ball player “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime”. Hence it is extremely important for leaders of the organization to have a successful team. While every leader wants a successful team, many of them struggle to put one in place. It requires foresight, careful planning, and ability to be a coach rather than a manager, tons of empathy and leadership quality to set up a successful team. Let’s look at some of the aspects that help in building a high performing team.
Right Talent Vs Best Talent
Most of the time hiring managers ask and look for the best talent. However it is important to understand the role requirement, organizational culture, team composition, team and leader strengths & weaknesses and hire the right talent, rather than the best talent. “Horses for courses” is a much better approach than “One size Fits all”. To give an example, Karun Nair who scored a triple century in a test match was dropped from the next test as the team requirement was different based on the playing condition. It is always better to hire a resource that will fit into the organization culture and compliment the team. Unfortunately in our quest to hire the best, most of the times we expect a fish to climb the tree and that often leads to disastrous result for the team, the organization and the individual.
Induction is a very important part of helping a resource settle down. It provides a platform to the new joinee to understand the organization culture, leadership vision , team context, to get himself familiar to process and people and helps him prepare for the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, in a world, where time is a premium, most organizations have either shunned a formal induction plan or have made it just another routine activity without putting the required focus around it. Hence it becomes all the more important for a leader to help a new team or individual settle in and help them during the transition. Australian Cricket team always insists on reaching the visiting country well in advance to get itself acclimatized to the condition. And that helps them perform better. Holds true in organizational context as well. . Few days spent in helping an individual settle down, goes a long way in terms of driving productivity and enhancing success.
Be a Coach, Understand the team dynamics
One of the important aspects of setting a successful team is understanding the strength and weakness of each team member and using it effectively to drive success. A leader must spend enough time with his team to assess the capability and allocate work accordingly. An employee performs the best when he works as per his natural potential. While developing and working on areas of improvement is very important one must be cognizant of the fact that trying to ask Sehwag to play like Dravid or vice versa will lead to limited success only. So a leader must be aware about how much change is required or how much tweaking can make an individual more effective as a team player and use his judgement accordingly. Today’s workforce is young and raring to go. More than a manager, they need a coach who can tap the potential and guide them to perform better. Hence most successful teams have coaches who double up as managers.
Clear Communication & Expectation
Setting up clear expectation and having periodic discussion around it helps team to stay focussed. Communication plays a very important role in the success of a team. A good leader must ensure that he/she is having periodic conversation with his /her team. While a personalized conversation helps, it is important to reiterate that at the end of the day it is about the collective success or failure of the team. This helps in keeping the team cohesive and they continue to root for each other. Another important aspect of communication is providing a context to things. Just an email “Can you look into it “many a times confuses everyone and leads to wastage of time. Hence it is important to have clear, concise communication.
Balance or Integrate but don’t Burn out
While setting up a team one must work with a long term vision. Today’s workforce is young and will spend an average of thirty years handling pressure cooker situations. Hence a successful team that plans to work together for couple of years must learn to relax and have fun periodically. It goes a long way in keeping the energy level high. We may debate around work life balance or work life integration, but the fact is life style diseases are on rise and burns out ratios are going up. Hence prioritization and the ability to say NO are important aspects to build a successful team and the leader of the pack must work as shock absorber and not as someone who believes in passing on the pressure to the team.
Recognize the right outcome but more importantly recognize the right behaviour, attitude and approach. Successful teams also recognize failures as long as the effort is in the right direction and there is enough learning on the way. This helps teams to strive for innovation and they don’t get cowed down by momentary failures. Make recognitions as much personalized as you can and recognize people publicly. And encourage failure as long as the team is learning from it .
What Worked there, may not work here
Greg Chappel was a fantastic player , he is technically one of the best minds in the game today , he had some fabulous players playing for him. Yet he failed miserably as the Coach of Indian Cricket Team. Whereas John Wright and Gary Kirsten succeeded with the same team. Kirsten went on to help India win the world cup. What did they do differently? While Chappel tried to replicate the Aussie way and failed miserably, Wright & Kirsten first took time to understand the local culture, Individual style and then modified their approach to suit the team. While Chappel tried to change the natural style of players, Wright & Kirsten respected Individual strength and worked around it to build a successful team. Many times we fall into the trap of replicating what worked somewhere else and fail miserably. But to build a successful team one must understand the culture, context and pace of the current set up and tweak his plan accordingly.
Freedom & Empathy
Give your team enough freedom, seek feedback from team. Coach team members to be empathetic. Only a team that plays for each other can win the game. And hence lack of empathy from the leader or from team member can be fatal for a team. Being empathetic and respecting individual dignity is key to achieving success.
In the 21st century, things are moving at a break-neck pace. Change is the only constant, Talent is scarce and success is what matters. Hence setting up a high performing team is a leader’s key responsibility. And all it needs is intent, ability, time and effort. Are you ready for it?