Saturday, December 26, 2009

Building Teams - Part 1 - Assuming Leadership

I've been fascinated with 'teams' for a long long time. I've also been a student of the subject for the past nine years. Building corporate teams is bit different although there are more similarities with other teams such as sports teams etc.

The Key difference comes in the form of voluntary vs paid team members! Just that cause is bigger than the paid incentive! (This is more true in the case of Generation Y ers)

There are plenty of times where we've read that story about the legendary CEO coming to the rescue of a company, streamlined staff, got rid of 'excess baggage' through voluntary retirement etc. and then turned around the company from red to green. While these stories are motivational and moral boosting, most of us who fall into the category of 'rest of the leadership team' as department heads, rarely will have that sort of luxury or free way.

In big corporate structures, many of the critical elements of remunerating employees are beyond the individual discretion of a department head. For instance, salary structures and other perks cannot to be offered to an individual just the way you want. Various other factors such as equality, fairness etc relevant across the organization do play a significant role in determining those. Especially during difficult times such as these adjustments to salaries could be even more difficult.

So how do we go about building that great team with all the typical issues, any department head has to counter.

There are multiple methods of developing teams and it very much bottle downs to the individual style of the team leader.

If you are a leader who assumes a new role as a department head then, you very much inherit an existing culture among your team members. You need to be mindful of the repercussions and complications of the existing culture before you go about trying to align the rest to your way. One needs to identify and understand aspects of the existing culture which can compliment the new culture you intend to inculcate in your team. One should go about speaking to as many employees as possible taking a stock of their point of view on the existing modus operandi. However these discussions must serve as feedback sessions and not to indicate any form of opinion. Also many 'politically inclined' employees might attempt to win you over and as a new boss you need to be extremely mindful on this fact.

Depending on the size of the team and the magnitude of the change from the existing statusquo you need to go about announcing such changes. However prior to that one does need to identify several key alleys' among the existing staff. This is not to politicize the process but to ensure you do have ground level assistance and feedback. Key to any change is the credibility you develop along the way. Changes may be tough for all involved but as long as you are consistent to your vision and align all your actions including reward and punishment, I think people will live with that.

Remember your superiors play a pivotal role in this whole processes, prior to engaging any activity one needs to 'sell' your new vision to them. It is paramount that you do have 'C-Suite' sponsorship and endorsement for your action. Failure to do so will lead to detrimental results.

One needs to give every employee every chance possible to change for the better. One needs to set expectations right from the beginning and give candid feedback along the way. One word of caution though, you don't have to be democratic in every endeavor, but do listen to people all the time and then make YOUR decision.

Something that has worked for me all the time with all sorts of people is the genuine one to one dialogue. You tell them your expectation and check with them whether it is possible.

One of the greatest reward capacities that you have in your disposal as a departmental head is your ability to give them opportunities to perform tasks. Do not undermine this. It is a major tool you have, provided you use it right. Check for their aspirations and also try to identify personal gaps, meaning personal developmental needs of your team members. Some companies have a policy of only developing 'requisite' technical skills. This is not a smart move at all. Now as much as possible develop them for their full potential. It pays for the company and adds value for the team as well. Speak to them regularly about their gaps and more importantly about the progress they are making if any. Give them assignments and projects, allow them to make certain mistakes. Seek their feedback regarding important tasks and acknowledge good suggestions and reward such initiatives through pubic praise. People do respond to this and it creates a want to be part of a team.

Well these strategies have worked for me. I'm sure there are plenty of other methods some of you would have tried. Feel free to share!

To be continued..........

1 comment:

Alf said...

Interesting article. well said!