Building a Winning Team

Winning Team

ITM Group Media’s Executive Director Subhajit Roy, in conversation with Arup Majumdar, CEO of Trariti Consulting Group on how the HVACR industry can cope with the challenges and opportunities brought about by COVID-19. This is the second of the series of 5 articles on this topic through a candid one-to- one discussion with Arup Majumdar.

Subhajit: We will be discussing a range of topics and issues that are facing businesses in turbulent times, specially focusing on the issues faced by the small and medium enterprises in India in the HVAC/R market. In our last article, we had talked about the importance of carrying out business transformation to not only sustain the business but also to prepare for accelerating the future business. We talked specifically about 10 areas of P&L intervention that could result in increasing the sales and reducing the cost of any business. In this article, we will continue our discussion with Arup Majumdar on creating winning teams.

Arup: “Building winning teams” is a topic that is most talked about by any entity, whether it be a company or a sports club. There is no ready formula that fits all, but there are a lot of similarities between leading organizations in how they achieve success.

For example, at Manchester United Football Club (ManU), a professional football club based in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, Sir Alex Ferguson had a long and distinguished career as the team’s Manager. He had a most successful stint leading ManU to maximum English Premier League and Champions Trophy wins. He spotted talent from different clubs, all across Europe. They were extremely talented players, each with their own area of excellence. Sir Alex brought them together as a team and mentoring them with a strong dose of discipline, reward and recognition, delivered wins consistently. It was not an easy task, as the players had their own ways of thinking. But Sir Alex managed to bring them all together, created a common goal of winning.

In another example, NASA has succeeded in bringing effective team management to a diverse workforce through unity of purpose and clarity of communications. Failure is not an option and planning is extremely meticulous, tied down to the last minute. Cross-functional teams are the norm. Process and management are more important than the individual, just as in soccer. Continuous measurement and feedback is a way of life. Knowing the strengths, capabilities and weaknesses of people is key to forming winning teams. People who are really keen to do certain jobs are matched to relevant functions. NASA achieves extraordinary results on a daily basis through its rigorous, time-bound mission management.

Subhajit: What is the key?
Arup: The captain, Managing Director, owner, is the key person. He has to set the goal of the company. The Captain selected by Sir Alex, was one among equals. But they were given the captainship because of their ability to inspire the team.

In SMEs, this is an area for improvement. We have seen many SMEs where the owner is a brilliant individual player and he thinks he can do everything himself. He is so engrossed with his passion that he does not get time to energize his team. Consequently, he misses out on the collective strength of the company.

Next is the Vision. Let me give you a recent example. While on assignment with a company to turn around sales and profit, we were talking to the HOD and front-line staff. There was no clarity on “what are the organizational goals”. Each person had his/her own way of thinking and a common shared goal was missing. This is critical. If staff does not know where the company is heading, and they don’t think along similar lines, there is no way to achieve performance goals.

Another important aspect is Alignment. The alignment of the team is tied to vision. If the vision, mission and objectives are clearly defined, alignment will follow. First, let us get clarity on these 3 terms as they seem like corporate jargon.
Vision is the “long-term goal” in a broader context of society.
Mission is “how” to achieve that vision.
Objectives are more short-term – what shall we do exactly to deliver on the mission.

Most times, employees look at the objectives as it is easier to understand. Management sees the bigger picture and they should make managerial decisions that are based on the vision and mission. This is an area that SME needs to improve.

Subhajit: What is the expectation and role of a team member?
Arup: The most important element is “self-awareness”. We all have individual strengths. Build on that strength and become even better. A sales, marketing, technical person should learn more practical skills to stand out in their work. While individual brilliance is great to have, the full power of the team is only realized through leveraging the collective strength.

Let me share a client experience. They had departments that performed “Green’’ on all their deliverables. The departments by themselves were performing well. But overall, the company performance was in the red. This is a crucial problem faced by companies of any size. Interdepartmental collaboration is not high and that results in suboptimal company performance.

The question: how do we overcome this problem? It can only be achieved through mindset change and recognition. It is easier said than done. Companies struggle to bring mindset change. Very often, we see people say: “This is not going to work, we have tried this before”. This is a problem. As long as we do not unlearn and learn again, little progress can be made.
Recognize people and teams for overachieving. Celebrate small victories. There is a reason to celebrate every small win. Small wins lead to large wins, and then have a large celebration. Build momentum every day, and you will see the difference.

When you set performance objectives for the year for your staff, make sure to give weightage to achieving organization targets. Mix the performance on 3 parameters: company goals, department goals, own goals. The percentage split among the 3 will be different across the hierarchy but it will create alignment of purpose.

Subhajit: What is the role of a leader in the team?
Arup: The fundamental role is to keep the team motivated, energized and engaged. Create a culture of openness in your organization, be humble to own mistakes and show your people that you also make mistakes. That creates confidence in your staff and avoids the culture of “the boss is always right”. Be a mentor to your staff. Mentoring is taken very seriously by large companies as it is an open forum to learn more about your staff. Encourage your senior management team to be mentors. The mentor should not be the immediate boss. It has to be someone in any other department. It also provides an opportunity to the senior manager to learn about intra-departmental communication.

We have seen many times that there is a mismatch between people and their roles. Understand the strength & passion of each person and make sure to provide the person with the task accordingly. Explore the idea of rotating staff among departments that he would like to explore.

While doing all these, make sure to maintain team discipline. Being soft with people should not be taken as a sign of a weak boss. Sir Alex was ruthless when it came to discipline, on and off the field. Make sure that lines of professionalism are not crossed.

Communication: sometimes it is better to over communicate. Encourage people to communicate vertically upwards (to their superiors), horizontally (peers) and vertically downwards (juniors).

Transparency: be transparent in your business. People don’t like to be kept in the dark. It creates the “gossip” culture as people start guessing. That is negative energy. Keeping confidentiality and sensitive issues in mind, let people know how the company is doing – good or bad.

Walk the talk: If you say something, then practise it. Otherwise people see through the hypocrisy. A classic example is the topic of “inclusion and diversity”. Large HVAC companies are talking about this. If you ask how many female members of equal merit are in the management team, the answer will tell you that “walk the talk” is missing.

Meritocracy: avoid cronyism and encourage meritocracy. It is easy to fall prey to cronyism. It is human nature to be surrounded by Yes men. But it is harmful to the organization. Be prepared to promote people who question your decision, and have compelling reasons for their point of view. Surround yourself with people who are better than you, in their own areas. You focus on your strength and get expert advice from someone who knows more than you.

Subhajit: If this is so easy, more leaders should do this. But what are the barriers?
Arup: Self awareness and humility are important. The leader has to be aware of his strengths and weaknesses. Most of the time, we gloss over our weakness and create a self- defined shield of strength everywhere. Try saying “I do not know”. It is okay to say that, as it shows that you are human and you are humble enough to admit. Know your weakness more than your strength. It is akin to saying: know your enemy more than your friends.

Trust: building trust takes time. Do not rush to delegate and trust that the work will be done. Trust comes in stages. Give people assignments and measure their performance objectively. Build up trust slowly to the point where you feel comfortable to let go and delegate completely without too much oversight.

Company culture becomes a barrier. We have seen SMEs that have people in the company for many years. They have their own way of thinking that is grounded in the business situations of many years back. They cling on to these practises and discourage new ideas. Shed old baggage unless change is accepted. These are hard decisions but the future of many people in your organization depends on you taking ownership and making hard decisions.

Cultural sensitivity: Perhaps not such a hot topic in the past, but very relevant now, with Indians from all over the country resettling in other parts of the country. When I worked in Hong Kong, it was customary to give out Lai See packets (with Lucky Money) to juniors. All managers followed it as a matter of joy. It is customary to share Christmas gifts during Christmas in western countries. In a diverse country like India with many religions and regional peculiarities, one should make the effort to relate to employees and earn their respect and trust.

Subhajit: What would be the best way to earn the trust of your team?
I will share a simple model that I use: EMPOWER.
Empower your staff to make decisions. Let them own their task. Make them the mini-CEO of their own area. That creates accountability and automatically brings ownership of the task. There can be no blame game anymore, as the staff has to control his individual destiny.

Empathize with your staff. Show them that you truly care. Spend time with each of your staff over the year – an easy way would be to spend a few minutes every morning with each individually. It can be done, all it needs is 5 mins a day, and it will show that you care.

Meetings: hold more number of meetings, but of very short duration. During lockdown, people feel demotivated. Regular interaction will boost their morale. Set specific agenda for the meetings and avoid long winded discussions. Make your meetings effective and productive.

Pride: the greatest self-satisfaction comes when people feel proud of what they do. If you recognize the smallest contribution of your people, irrespective of their hierarchy, it will instil a sense of pride in themselves, pride in the company they work for, and that is a powerful motivator.

Originality of thought: circumstances demand that we find innovative ways to do the same work, and create greater impact. That can come if you encourage people to contribute ideas. The concept of Kaizen comes in here, constant improvement. While Kaizen is more structured, encourage the creative mind of your staff and be receptive to ideas. A global Korean giant has put up an office with boards on the 4 walls. It is open to anyone – staff or otherwise. People can come in, scribble their ideas on a “stick it” note, and paste on the wall. The senior management visits this office regularly and browse the ideas and adopt them. The successful global launch of a mobile phone, is a testimony of the power of innovative collaboration.

Work from anywhere – don’t watch over the shoulder. Try removing controls that makes your people feel stifled. If you set clear goals and accountability, there is limited need for constant supervision.

Engage: staff engagement is a powerful weapon for you. Unfortunately, many people in companies feel disengaged. They tend to take the job as a 10-6 routine. This can be overcome through your intervention. If you make the work meaningful for them, make them passionate about what they do, instil pride, you will be able to get better team engagement.

Last but not the least, respect. Respect everyone, irrespective of age & hierarchy. If you follow this EMPOWER model, you will create a winning team.

Subhajit: That is great to know. Thank you for your invaluable insights Arup.
In our next article we will focus on how to specifically create business value by effectively collaborating (both internal and external), by EMPOWERING, to create a culture of “innovation”.

Arup Majumdar,
CEO, Trariti Consulting Group

Cookie Consent

We use cookies to personalize your experience. By continuing to visit this website you agree to our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


To Top