11 Apr 2016, 11:26 — 7 min read
A competent team is the foundation of a successful organisation. This week I will share about ‘Team Building’ for two important reasons:
(a) An entrepreneur cannot run his ship alone. He needs support from everywhere and especially from his employees, who must work as a team.
(b) I would like to share own personal experiences on this subject.
I have been in the IT field all my life, and hence have played both the role of a team member and a team head in a multi-national and multi-cultural environment. I am proud to state that the software projects that I handled have all been successful and won wide acclaim.
Now, as an entrepreneur, I have the opportunity to apply all that I have learnt regarding team building. Let me therefore narrate a few points mostly from my experience, on the subject without making this article too long to read.
What is a TEAM?
One can say it is an acronym for ‘Together Everyone Achieves More!’ The meaning lies in the word itself!
However for the team to function well, there are certain guidelines to be followed both by the team leader and the team members. A team leader is not a ‘boss’ just supervising the team, but must also be a team member who actively participates in all the team activities relevant for the project/activity. Needless to say, a team leader must have good proficiency in the subject of the project.
This article is written with the entrepreneur in mind as in most cases he/she will also have to play the role of a team leader.
Guidelines for team building:
1. Have clarity in expectations
The leader must define the expectations from the team in a manner that everyone understands. Without knowing what to do will bring chaos to the team. What is the purpose for which the team is organised, is something everyone in the team must be clear about.
2. Have a balanced skill set
In my experience I have found that packing a team with all-star-performers does not work. There may be ego clashes and therefore delays. Ensure the required skill sets are included. When we were implementing a software in a Gulf country, I had to have an Arabic speaking person mainly to interact with the users and make them comfortable with the new software.
Here take a cue from cricket teams. One cannot have all bowlers neither all batsmen. A player may not be good with the bat but still included for their fielding skills.
3. Define the role of each team member
Make sure the team members are clear about what they should do. This does not mean a team member works in isolation but also does not mean that he/she does the work of another team member. It reminds me of the movie ‘Lagaan’ where every player runs towards the ball and chided by Aamir Khan to play their respective role.
4. Get commitment from the members
One bad apple can spoil the entire lot. Make sure the team members really want to be in the team, and do this before the project starts. Tell them about the purpose and rewards that may follow if the work is done well. Expect last minute drop-outs and have backups ready.
Make sure there are no issues about inter-personal relationships among team members. Often personal issues can spoil the team work. A good team leader should know the pulse of their team and should not be caught unawares at any point of time.
5. Empower your team
As an entrepreneur, I empower my team leader and the members to handle their own affairs. I know that when my intervention is needed, I will come to know of it. It was a credit to us when a major customer of ours said to me that there has been no occasion for him to escalate any matter to my level. This meant my team leader and his team knew what they were doing and were confident about it.
6. Develop effective communication channels
A very important aspect indeed, particularly when the team members work from different locations. Proper and regular communication channels must be present. A five minute stand-up/con-call meeting in the morning helps a lot. Ensure that the team members do speak up when they face an issue.
Encourage the team members to talk about their achievements. We have a system where one member has to write about the good work done by some other colleague. Here the business owner/entrepreneur also has an important role to play. Being the stakeholder, he/she must communicate his/her vision and business objectives and the purpose for which the project is taken up.
7. Be transparent in performance evaluation
If a player does not deliver when needed, he is often dropped from the next match, while another player is given the man-of-the-match award for a century. Remember one bad-apple can spoil the entire lot, as mentioned before. Also, a star performer may feel bad if no good word is uttered by the team leader or the business owner. Simply put, have a system for performance measurement. Be transparent in your measurement of performance. Make it clear in the beginning itself about the pitfalls for poor performance.
8. Create a culture of respect for all
A hierarchical organisation structure works well when the tasks are routine and governed by procedures and rules. However for an entrepreneur, working his way to success, he/she must have a team which understands and respects each other’s culture and habits.
9. Support innovative ideas
A team’s enthusiasm may vanish if the stakeholder pours water over a new idea from the team. The business owner (stakeholder) must know that not every innovative idea may work but stopping innovation altogether is a recipe for disaster. Ensure the team gets a proper reward for innovation.
10. Be flexible & supportive
Remember a team is made up of human beings and therefore emotions. No need to be extremely rigid with only the deadline for delivery in mind. Review the reasons for delay, support the team and help them to sort out the issues. A team working always under tension and long hours is not good for the organisation. At the same time, keep the customer informed of any likely delays.
I hope these tips will be useful to every entrepreneur and especially to those who are startups.
Posted bySridhar Narayanaswamy
Managing partner of Innovatus Systems, founded by him on January 1, 2013. Sridhar is a result oriented professional with over four decades in the Information Technology &...