“I can’t, but we can”. This slogan has to be adopted and embraced by all professionals, regardless of which segment of economic or noneconomic activity, they are engaged in.
Many of us, inherit teams and only a few get the opportunity to build them. An inherited team comes with its own set of beliefs and ways of conducting things, while a team that is built from the scratch, will have at its foundation the element of innovation and creativity. If the manager or leader is fortunate to inherit a talented team, he/she can assure himself of confirmed success, without tinkering too much with the hierarchy. However, if the inheritance lacks quality, the leader will have to either retool the team or induct fresh talent into the ranks.
In the inherited team, there is presence of both, the high performing individuals and the mediocre to low productive members. The new leaders have up to them to choose to either carry on with the existing team or start to jettison and bring in new talent. This exercise some leaders do immediately upon assumption of office, others like to give their own selves a chance to self-evaluate performance of the key constituents before proceeding to use the corporate guillotine.
It is easy for even the run-of-the mill manager to take forward a talented team. The challenge is when the available resource is not of the expected quality -here comes in the role of an enterprising leader. He harps on the strength of colleagues and decimates factors of incompetence through inspiration or actual re tooling. Individual talent wins games, but it is teamwork that wins championship. If the new manager is a lateral entrant, then he must be extremely careful to do a dispassionate evaluation of colleagues. While it is always good to take feedback from the existing staff, there is also an equal need to be cautious, while sifting through data, so as to develop an impartial set of knowledge, of what is true and what is hearsay?
In case where the manager has grown from within the rank and file of the organisation, he/she will have to be careful to rid him/herself of the experience of past association with friendly colleagues, peers, seniors, while rebuilding the team. Starting with a fresh work base today is far better than having to carry forward items of distrust, envy, jealousy, and suspicion. An empowered manager will put on a fresh pair of lenses to reevaluate the workforce.
The new leader has to be extremely careful to either change or have the staff replaced. And he/she will be watched very closely from all quarters of the organisation regarding who the replacements are? It will be seen whether cronies or incompetent and poorly skilled worker are chosen or the talented ones have been given preference, in every sense.
Managers should not forget that they are done or undone by the quality of the team they surround themselves with. The boss can only be as fast and furious in delivering results as their chosen team.
Steve Jobs had remarked, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so that they can tell us, what to do”. For any team to be cohesive and result-oriented, it is of critical importance to have assurance of commitment by all towards their organisations’ objectives. If the quest is not shared by the team members, then we get to witness inter-divisional and inter-departmental tugs-of-war. This obviously does not aid positively in building a glued teamwork environment, instead it provokes still greater negativity and animosity, to each others’ initiatives. The consequence is failure and damage to the institution, besides, the manager/leader.
Only “shared” interests, values, and goals can serve as the binding factors between people, who wish to forge themselves from being just individual talent with their own set of strengths and skills, incapacities, and inadequacies, to being a team, where individual strength creates domination over collective incompetence. The pursuance of common goals and objective creates a sense of belonging and togetherness, which in turn moulds individual efforts towards teamwork.
The presence of the element of characteristic of empathy, when found in a manager, you would notice the working of a well-oiled team. A good leader of any team, controls his/her own self first, before he/she embarks to exercise control over the team. To create and build a team, there is a great need to keep in check the tendency to react provocatively, to any irritant person or issue.
A manager with less than the required emotional quotient will demonstrate in his/her everyday interactions with the team members an attitude to lose shirt at the drop of the hat. Such managers are powder kegs, where a single striking of light against their office will make them explode into a frenzy of anger. In such situations the mushroom cloud of anger hangs over the institution for long periods during which the team starts to either actively abandon the initiative i.e., get into shells or begin to desert the ship. No manager who cannot control his anger can ever have a committed team.
A manager with a likable disposition stands a better chance to create teams. This brand of managers have in them qualities of being trustworthy, generous and have an ever-willing ear to lend to each staff member, without any bias -- he/she is approachable by all levels of the hierarchy. If there is no element of flexibility to adopt with patience and belief in the viewpoint of team members, then it surely is a lost cause of teambuilding. Contrarily, what will get infused into the ranks of the organisation, will be obstinacy of behavior … the stubborn manager doesn’t give a dime to other players. This in the long term is to the peril of the individual and the entity. Teams disintegrate through the application of either lack of recognition to good effort or by way of giving credit to those who don‘t deserve it.
A teambuilding leader would show abhorrence and intolerance to corporate pollution. This takes shape, with different manifestations, between team members. Suspicion is one major team harming agent. If distrust is present between people there can never be a commitment to any presupposed shared value or notion. Managers wanting to keep their teams fortified all the time have to be wary of the presence of toxic coworkers. Toxicity of any sort at the work place must be expunged.
Appreciation, both visible and invisible and loud and silent, is a feature that must rank higher in the list of things-to-do, of any leader. Sometimes a publicly visible pat on the back is motivationally more powerful than a closed door ceremony of placement of a medal on the chest.
If the manager does the “right” things, most will be gratified and many will be positively amazed. The commitment of each member of the team is critical. To inculcate commitment, a leader in his experience and deeds must remain true to his word. Any variations between promises made and action taken create a gulf of mistrust. And doubt, is the single biggest enemy of faith in the leader/manager. Trustworthiness should be the singular currency between team members. Fear is a huge boulder on the pathway of all fresh ideas and initiatives. It is the job of the manager to remove the element of fear that may pervade in the ranks of the team members. It is fear that causes failure and dispelling the consequences of fear should be the leader’s job.
The trait of empathy is a very powerfully binding force between team members. Sometimes by merely listening to the woes of team members melts away issues, anger, resentment and ill-will. Try it. I have, in my career, done it many times and the outcome most of the times was incredibly positive.
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist