RRGwrites

On life…and learning

Posts Tagged ‘Team Dynamics

5 Things You Should Say Today As A Team Leader

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LeadershipWhen I wrote my recent blog on ’10 Mean Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Star Performers’, many of my readers, friends and colleagues, who were team-leaders themselves, asked my views on the things they should be saying to their teams. That made me think… for there isn’t any dearth of to-dos on this subject. Try googling, and you will get a laundry list of things leaders should be saying to their team-mates.

However, after much deliberation and digging into my own experience of observing leaders and managers and managing large, diverse teams, I am of the view that as a Team Leader, you should be saying these 5 things to your team, given the opportunity, daily:

  1. I am observing the efforts being put in by you. Thank you and keep up the good work. I am sure many subordinates don’t get to hear this sentence from their Team Leader. And worse, at time when they do hear it, it is mostly a lip-service done. Authentic and timely recognition is what a team looks for from their manager.

  2. Hey, all conflict is not necessarily negative. Let’s use it constructively to get better as a team. At times, two or more teammates, either in their pursuit of excellence or otherwise, enter into conflicts of all sorts. Affirmation from the leader that all conflict is not necessarily negative, will not only bring positive energy, but will also help teammates connect better, resolve the issue and not confuse conflict with personal vendetta or mala fide intentions.

  3. It is great that you disagree with me on this subject. I am sure It will bring a different view, let’s understand what you have in mind. This one’s a real big gap today. Leaders often have and/or demonstrate, sometimes inadvertently, big egos. Allowing your teammate to disagree with you is not only helpful in building an open culture, it also saves you from falling prey to the ‘The Boss knows it all syndrome.’

  4. Let me know if you need any help; I am there. All of us look for help from our leaders, and the need is all the more crucial when we fail or make mistakes. When the team hears its leader say that it is OK to fail, and that she will help if they do, it does wonders to the team’s morale and output.

  5. Hey, I told you that I will call you back when you reached out to me. Sorry, mate, I was not able to. Let’s connect quickly now. We all know boss is always busy; but if he is so busy that he forgets to call back most of the times, disconnects start. Even if you say this sentence once a day to one of your team-mate, albeit authentically, not only he, but others will also appreciate your leadership.

Are you a team-leader? Then do you agree with above? Please tap into your experience feel free to add to the above list.

Do you work with Team Leaders? Do you hear above sentences from your leaders? Do share your experiences.

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Post-script: You would have observed the extra stress I have laid on the word ‘Authentic’. Well, that is the real key in leadership & communication. You may read about it in detail here (‘Are You An Authentic Leader’).

myTeam

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Leading a team is some interesting work! Specially, when it comprises of individuals that are as bright, capable and strong as the ones whom I lead. Here they are, in the adjoining image…

I built this team from the scratch – from a two-member unit to now a 24-strong one…took me more than 3 years to do so. True professionals that they are, each one of them is a leader in his or her own realm. Highly engaged and committed, they are proud recipients of several awards and accolades in last few years and have grown from one strength to another.

Many a times I am asked, what keeps them together. What is the trick, the magic wand…

Let’s see what make this team ‘work’ together:

  • We hire for attitude only; train later for skill. Personal integrity, high energy and passion are must-haves to join us.
  • We trust each other – one hundred percent. 99% is considered as good as 0% here!
  • Heard about the term ‘boundary-lessness’? Meet us…you’d often note the one based at Amritsar calling the one based at Lucknow to learn something new! Doesn’t matter if he could have called five of us in Punjab itself. What matters is who would’ve known the best answer…
  • We disagree vehemently – it is allowed in this team and conflict isn’t viewed as negative behavior.
  • If convinced, you can tell your manager that she is wrong – high chances she may accept it!
  • Well, we know it is OK to make mistakes. When we fail, we simply raise our hand and someone is around to help. You must see us working on our best-failed ideas some day!
  • We are honest, simple fellas and treat each other as equals.
  • There is no Boss! The leader is considered as a common connecting point.
  • Aged 24 and 36 and all others in between – gel alike. Yet, no two of us are are same. In fact, even if you ask us, we would find it really impossible to identify any two who are similar people!
  • Every member who is more than 6-months old in the team has surely trained a new member and owned his or her deliverables for first 60 days.
  • We stand by each other, in good, bad and worse. Heard about the old ‘friend in need…’ piece?
  • Do we have fun? Well, see us dancing together sometimes, or singing as a chorus! Favourite quote of ours – “Aap kaisa bhi gao, hum achcha hi sunenge” 🙂
  • We love learning and improving and do so as a religion.
  • We lovvve eating out – at the dhabas and the Taj alike! And only the Boss(!) pays 🙂
  • and many more…

Aptly put in by one of us, “This team also celebrates everything, be it professional accolades, personal triumphs or even just plain well being…with an energy level to be proud of!” Another one said, “We keep each other on our toes!” An older team-mate remarked “we are truly proud of our team’s bonding.” And the youngest one of us opined that we enjoy a candid and open culture!

Above all, we love our work and our roles in making everyone successful – believe in it every day and strive to be the best, in all we do…

Amused after reading this? Well, didn’t I say at the start that leading a team is some interesting work?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are author’s own and not of the organisation he is associated with.

What Makes A Team ‘Work’?

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All through our lives, right from the formative education years to the working years, nearly all of us get to become part of several teams – local cricket or football team, school choir, family events, Lion’s Club, societies at college, functional and cross-functional teams at work, et al.

I too have been a part of many such teams all my life, sometimes as a team-member and sometimes as the leader. However, over a period of last decade or so, I have followed the dynamics of teamwork very closely and with an albeit higher curiosity. I tried to follow patterns in behavior, codify the dynamism of team-skills and attempted to make sense of the conflicting views & outcomes thereafter. Time spent while at management and law school and several years of working thereafter helped me gain some very interesting insights and perspectives on what makes a team ‘work’ together.

While there is no dearth of literature available on this subject, one would agree that achieving near-perfect teamwork is a far cry from reality, especially in the corporate arena. The jury is still out on what actually makes a team click together, work together and subsequently achieve a common goal, each and every time. Interestingly, I also noted that many times, even great results or goal-achievement cannot conclusively state that the team did ‘work’ together as a cohesive unit or as a whole!

In my view, under-mentioned are some very crucial elements that make a team ‘work’:

Making of a Team – Willingness and Passion:

  • Clarity of purpose of the team – what is the goal and what is it worth; why and how do I fit in; what’s there for me in it…all of the three questions should be answered in order to get individuals together as a team.
  • An individual’s own willingness to be part of a particular team – you don’t need ones who don’t want to be there.
  • Passion quotient of individuals – lack of it in even one of the teammates could be a real killer. If only a few deliver upon the team’s need of passion, the team may deliver results, but will surely not hold for long as a unit.

Competence:

  • Only Competent Individuals On Board. It is quintessential for the team’s leader to define the necessary skills needed and ensure only the competent individuals are hired/selected. Compromising here will have a simmering, yet long-term ill affect, not only on the results and performance, but also on the team’s bonding. Good talent always wants to work with only other good talent.
  • No room for displaying poor ownership or lack of competencies – slackness, poor learning agility, lack of participation, are big NO. They not only adversely impact results, but also lower the overall team-engagement and pull it down. Conceding here would only invite discontent from other members.
  • Existence of complementary competencies amongst the teammates. A heterogeneous team is better than a homogeneous one; once each team-member knows and believes in the reasons of their own as well as others’ roles, responsibilities and strengths.

Culture, Respect and Connect:

  • Culture – that ‘conflict is not equal to negative behavior’. Often, we mistake genuine conflict as unwarranted and discard it. However, in my view, healthy conflict is the root of all progress. Having said that, due caution should be exercised against turning the conflicting views into negative display of emotions.
  • Culture – that it is good to disagree with each other, as far as you do not disregard. Debate and fight the idea, not the person.
  • Culture – willingness to praise good work and thank for contributions. “We are all great pals, where’s the need to thank each other?” – this is one big piece that most teams miss.  Teams that learn to praise commendable work and thank each other connect far better than a team of ‘otherwise great friends’.
  • Respect – towards every individual. Each one has a role to play and despite the professional differences that may occur, respect for each other’s personal self mustn’t go down.
  • Respect – for each other’s talent and contribution. ‘Know it all’ attitudes won’t make a team ‘work’ together.
  • Absence of personal insecurities – this one is a true make or break element. It is very hard for a team to ‘work’ together in presence of insecure behavior, demonstrated or otherwise. Insecurity amongst the teammates inspires spite and poor connect, and while the team may still achieve short-term results, the team won’t ‘work’ together for long.
  • Having fun together. How boring and disconnected a team would be, if there were no fun? Remember ‘Fun’? From amongst the pursuit of goals, seriousness of efforts, data, analytics, homework, et al, fun often takes a beating. Ensure the element of fun stays in all you do, the team would ‘work’ together. Celebrate birthdays, achievements, outings, even farewells; create avenues of having fun together.
  • Connect holistically. This works very well, especially in the context of Indian culture. We love to connect on the personal note, share personal challenges and happiness alike. I am of the view that while the team-leader has a larger role to play here, every team member can chip in with genuine interest in each other’s lives. Think of it, how strong the bond would be when each member of the team knows in his or her hearts that everyone is standing by, in the hour of need.

Leadership:

  • Leader’s absolute interest and willingness to lead the bunch is crucial. Who wants to be led by someone who isn’t willing to lead? Leader of the team must be strong enough to see the bigger picture and wise enough to identify with his or her teammates, play the role of a coach & guide and build a culture for all to succeed.
  • Team’s unflinching trust in the leader’s authenticity, abilities and competencies – brilliant individuals won’t agree to be led by a poor or incompetent leader for long.
  • Team trust on leader’s fairness towards all – a real test of character for any leader. The leader has to ensure establishing a fair and impartial performance yard-stick for each individual member, and doubly ensure that it is visible too to all team-mates.
  • Be there when needed! Leader is required to demonstrate courage by standing up for the mistakes of his/her team. Once established, this works brilliantly in keeping the faith of a team on their leader and goes a long distance in building a well-knit team.
  • Talk, Communicate, Share – surely a leader’s most crucial job in making a team ‘work’. Seamless communication, of information, praise, feedback, ideas, goals, even failures, builds a strong internal network within the team. And mind you, by communication I don’t mean one-way sermons from the leader – I am referring to open connect and communication across levels. Failure to achieve this leads to conjectures, surmises, doubts, et al, leading to poor performance and lower team engagement.

Courage and Managing Failure:                           

  • Belief – that it is OK to fail at times. Every team that concertedly documents their ‘best-failed’ ideas quickly and builds a method around each failed attempt stands the test of time longer.
  • Absence of blame-game: “We know why we failed and we will work around it next time” instead of “I did it right, only if you had not failed…”
  • Demonstrating Courage – in taking feedback without being defensive.  Well, it is easier said than done. However, when a well-meant feedback is taken in right spirit and worked upon, it not only boosts up the capabilities of the recipient of the feedback, it also does wonders to the overall capability of a team to continuously improve as a unit.
  • Displaying Courage – in giving feedback, in an unbiased, timely and constructive manner. No point in trying to beat around the bush or appease each other when the contribution and/or level of performance is lower that expected. Individual who are courageous enough to speak up their mind, without intending any personal assault, build foundation of a sustainable team effort.

Over a period of last few years of my working in teams, I believe above are the key determinants of what makes a team ‘work’.  When well-meaning and competent individuals get together as a unit, have & display faith in each other’s abilities, learn to praise and motivate each other; when the team stands by the leader and vice-versa and don’t waste time in blame-game and/or only thinking about credit, the team ‘works’ wonderfully together. As a team-member and a leader both, I understand teamwork is a journey and not an end. Thus, I have trained myself to carefully watch for all of above factors and keep implementing them as a ‘work-in-progress’; leading to continuous improvement in ensuring better individual & team effort, connect, bond and attainment of results. I would say, ‘it works!’


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Photo-credit: xtremeleaguetrivia.com

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