Article (August-2018)


Where rubber meets the road for manager

Sujoy Banerjee

Designation : -   Group Chief People Officer

Organization : -  Gainwell Commosales Private Limited (Formerly Tractors India Private Limited), Kolkata


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How do you define teamwork in contemporary terms?
SB Business Success is often credited to successful teamwork. While an increasing number of organizations have gone global, good teamwork has become increasingly imperative, since employees with differing competencies, ideas and attitudes may be scattered on different continents. Circumstances may call for these global employees to share what information they have in each location in order to strategize, innovate and bring to market a company's products or services. 
The current global business environment is characterized by a never before state of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity. While geographical boundaries are collapsing, companies are also dissolving and evolving in new forms every alternate day across countries & continents thereby leading to changes in team compositions and team deliverables. People from across cultural & social diversities having competency differentials are required to come together and deliver common organizational objectives. Hence in this current context of constant flux in the global economic environment, teamwork plays a very critical and strategic role in the success of all modern day business enterprises.
Diverse capabilities & competencies, heterogeneity of socio-cultural orientation amongst team members, variety in work habits & preferences, multi-generation mix etc. are all challenging the effectiveness and efficiency of work teams in organizations of today.
What do you think - Is team building/team work an art or a science? Do you (in your organisation) have ever thought over the chemistry and mathematics of team work (please share with an anecdote)?
SB When it comes to assembling, motivating and keeping a great team happy so that they can flourish in a business enterprise, the truth is that it's a bit of both. It cannot be understated how important a great team is to a business' success. To many managers' dismay, team building often seems as complicated as watchmaking - there are a lot of moving parts, and things have to be just right in order to create something magical.
Just like a painter or a sculptor spend their entire lives learning how to improve the individual elements of their creation and learning how they fit together to create the final composition, managers in order to excel need to spend a considerable amount of time learning about the individual people that make up his/her team.
This is where the rubber meets the road for the manager. It's easy to do 'just enough' to try and keep the team on target. But how do you reach the next level? How do you break the mould and begin to engage & inspire the team to reach high performance?
It is important for the Manager not only to understand the psychology of the team members but also put into practice the art of managing every individual member in a unique and differentiated manner so that they are engaged and inspired to deliver.
In our Organization at GCPL, we have institutionalized and embraced the value of "Collaboration" as part of our daily lives. Our Sales and After Market Service Teams are encouraged, recognized and rewarded for working together on different business deals for achieving organizational goals. We constantly encourage & recognize employees who live and demonstrate this core organizational value of "Collaboration".
What does it really mean to be a team player, in times when virtual teams and robots are taking over the workplace where technology neutralizes the chemistry of teamwork?
SB In today's globalised business environment, virtual teams are a common organisational structure. The days when all team members were physically located in the same office and spent their working days together are long gone.
Virtual teams can be very complex, crossing not only geographies but also language, working styles and diverse cultures. All of these attributes can make virtual teams more complicated. Organisations can leverage these attributes to make effective virtual teams, or they can lead to dysfunctional teams.
A member of a Virtual Team must possess and demonstrate the following competencies :
  • Independent, Self-Motivated and Disciplined - In the global virtual work environment, managers and team members are located at different places, sometimes even in opposite time zones. There is no one to monitor the members on day-to-day basis. To ensure strict adherence to project timelines, the member should be able to create his own daily goals and plans and should be able to stick to his set timelines. The person should have the requisite level of expertise to complete assigned tasks without minimal support.
  • Intercultural Sensitivity - The global virtual teams are spread across cultural boundaries. The person should be aware of the nuances of other cultural traits and should be able to show respect towards them. This would ensure successful interactions as well as formation of trust among the members.
  • Manage Complexity and Uncertainty - Differences in time zones, languages, cultures, nature of tasks and technology - mediated interactions increases the complexity of the work environment. There is also certain level of uncertainty about the roles within the teams, which technology tools to use, delegation of tasks and career growth. All this uncertainty and complexity acts as barrier to trust. One should be able to break the task into milestones, have long-term vision and total compliance to the pre-defined workflow and processes to stay productive in the complex virtual environment.
  • Proactive and Cooperative - The day-to-day monitoring is not an option in the virtual work environment. Like in traditional work teams, in virtual teams one cannot walk over to the adjacent cubicle of the colleague to seek help. The virtual team member should be proactive enough to reach out to the other members to resolve any problem. On the other side, the members should collaborate with other members when they face similar situations. The virtual setting also calls for being proactive in informing virtual team leader about any possible delays and changes.
  • Networking - Virtual work environment leads to social isolation because most of the team interactions are centred on the tasks. An individual team member should build networks within the team by interacting on areas other than work. These would deepen relationships, understand the personalities and make meaningful connections. Social networking tools are best to facilitate such interactions.
  • Competence to use information and communication technology (ICT) Tools - The person should be able to effectively use variety of ICT to communicate and collaborate with the team members. Various ICT tools are emails, web conferencing, instant messaging etc. The person should be adept at using these tools, present written and verbal information in a logical and coherent manner which should be easily understood by others as well as ability to understand the expressions when communicating with other members.
  • Trustworthiness, Openness and Honesty - In addition to the above mentioned six individual competencies the virtual team member should also be trustworthy and honest in his dealing with others. He should be able to deliver on his promises and should be open about any problems. He should be able to perform his assigned tasks with high levels of integrity such as not sharing the confidential data and using correct information and methods to work.
Do you believe that apart from popular traits of effective team and team workers, something more is required in changing fast paced business environment? What should be that "something"?
SB I feel that in fast paced ever changing business environment, one "something special" factor that differentiates teams from one another is the "Agility" of the team. The nimbleness of the team to embrace and adapt to the constant changes enables a team to become a high performance team. This means that the team members also needs to possess and demonstrate similar agility to accept, adapt and navigate through the changes.
What are some of the myths behind effective teams and team workers?
SB Harmony is good for teamwork : Harmony can actually be detrimental for a team. Conflict is likely to drive a team to get more creative solutions than a team free of conflict. Harmony is likely to be the result of good team performance rather than a cause.
Collective intelligence is better than individual intelligence : Not true. Every team must have an individual as a leader who can take the final call on what needs to be accomplished as well as the resources and materials required to achieve it.
Adding new members to a team brings energy and fresh ideas : Research proves that longer the same team stays together, the better they perform. Whether it is a sports team or a string quartet, a longer association tends to improve performance.
Bigger the team, better the performance : Excessive size could be an impediment to effective collaboration. Small and nimble teams are more efficient and manageable.
Team work happens by magic : Bring together talented people and give them a general idea of what's needed, they will make it happen. When designing a team, it's important to think about what the team is there to do, and which behavioural & functional contributions might be required at each stage.
Individuals aren't responsible for the quality of their team experience because teamwork is a group skill.
Team members must subordinate their self-interests for the good of the team. However, Responsible team members retain their personal power. They find a way to align their self-interests with the team assignment, knowing that "going along" without passion or commitment can take the team to where no member wants to go.
Team members' skills are more important than their motivation. However, when teamwork is important, skills should come after factors like drive, energy, interest, motivation, and enthusiasm because it's shared desire-not talent - that creates teamwork.
What is the role of HR in accelerating chemistry for teamwork?
SB HR can directly ensure better team - working by getting involved in how teams are organised.
Attract the right talent. Design & Implement talent acquisition frameworks that helps to assess employees on the qualities that team members in your organization requires and accordingly recruit the right talent that possesses & demonstrates the desired competencies.
Define a clear purpose and goals for each team - In order to be effective, a team must know its overall purpose and current goals. Involve team members in goal - setting, since they'll likely feel more engaged by goals they helped create.
Measure team performance - What gets measured gets done. Tracking & Measurement of performance, improves performance. So establish effective metrics and reporting from team leaders. If team performance is sub-par, you'll know why and how to fix it.
Recognize & Reward team excellence - Variable pay and rewards linked to team objectives can help galvanise teams and motivate them to achieve team goals. It should be a combination of both Monetary and Non-monetary Recognition & Reward of Team performance excellence.