ABC of team building

  • Team builders are a toast of the corporate world

Compared to a couple of decades ago, these are great times for young managers. The chances of being asked to build your own team and execute projects are far brighter now. Young as you are with a few years of experience, you may feel nervous and intimidated and may even refuse to take up the challenge. But if you are smart, you will see the offer as an opportunity to move up the career ladder. Understand that the senior management has entrusted you with team building because it sees promise and potential in you.

What should you do to attain success in team building?

First, you must immediately realise and internalise the reality that henceforth your success will be measured by the success of your team and not by your personal accomplishments. You are no longer a solo player.

For this to happen, you must have an elaborate interaction with your reporting authority to clearly understand the organisation’s expectations from your team. This will enable you to choose members most suited for the forthcoming collaboration.

Having been explained the objectives of the team by your superiors you need to convey these expectations to each individual member of the team as well as to the team as a group. Any vagueness or confusion at this stage may lead to the team members straying in diverse directions.
The best way to keep such risks at bay is to have a one-to-one meeting with each team member. Match and mix an individual’s abilities and skills with the team’s overall objectives. As the team leader, you need to be a highly attentive listener. Create a congenial atmosphere for the team member/s to open up and articulate their strengths and weaknesses. This is for your own good as no leader is a master of all trades and needs support and advice from all team mates. Even one wrong selection by you may undo the entire team’s efforts.

Your team selection process is still not complete. Focus on knowing what motivates the individual team members best as no two members’ motivations may be the same. This input about specific team members will help you calibrate your human resources development, behavioural and reward schemes (not necessarily monetary) accordingly to ensure optimal output from the entire team. You will notice that timely and public recognition of outstanding employees can boost their morale way higher than mere financial incentives. They are quick to realise how their achievements add to their learning and overall growth prospects. Companies value team builders and players.

As you move ahead with team building you will also find that almost all employees want to excel in their areas and multiply their skill sets by collaborating with team members having different talents and expertise. There are no born laggards and shirkers. A good team leader can transform even slow movers into agile and nimble performers.

But this is easier said than done. Once the team is put into place and it starts moving towards its clearly enunciated individual-specific and group goals, maintaining the momentum assumes great significance. This can be made possible if there are continuous and candid conversations between the team leader and the team members. The corporate world describes this as feedback.

I prefer the term two-way feedback and there is a reason for it. We witness mostly top-to-bottom flow of ideas and instructions for course correction in the developing world where hierarchy is still paramount in business and society. But it has often been seen that the most urgent paint points as well as sweet spots are first experienced by the employee engaged in a specific task. But the employee concerned does not share the matter with the leader or superior authority fearing adverse repercussions.

To bridge this trust deficit, you will need to create an aura of psychological safety in your team to encourage its members to speak out? Many team leaders have been seen to falter on this front. Frank and regular discussions between the team leader and players are imperative. It has often been seen that feedback from the team leader and his players prompted the top management to tweak its goals more in line with the existing business reality. It is not so uncommon to find the market scenario changing even as the team is working on a project. Old assumptions lose their relevance. The team usually discovers this much before the top management but does not report fearing reprimand and reprisal. Eventually, the company gets hit. Hence the high value attached to regular two-way feedback.

Thankfully, comprehensive feedback is gradually becoming the norm in more and more companies, particularly in advanced countries. The socio-cultural environment in our part of the world is a dampener in this respect.  But the disadvantages of sticking to archaic ways of business are far too many. I can see the resultant change happening.

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Basant Chaudhary

Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. ([email protected])

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