I SLEEP AT WORK. I end up spending more than 1 out of every 2 seconds of my waking life at work, that’s 90,000 hours in a lifetime, and lately a lot more. Might as well get my sleep pattern steady and hit the 70 on Fitbit I so desperately desire. And with retirement becoming a distant dream to be enjoyed in the next lifetime only - it’s all the more important I join a company that lets me be myself, I am excited to get to, give it my full and YEAH grant me those 40 winks when I need to, for a mid-afternoon siesta.
Becoming a leader was thrilling. A HIGH level of excitement, my special chair and the adoration of people around me, cakes and balloons on the promotion, high fives and back pats to have been finally appointed a manager of people. Or at least I thought till then, and the sheen started wearing off in less than a few weeks. I found myself doing the 9-5 pm, focussed on solving people's issues and exhausted to get any of my own work done. After-hours work became a norm and now I also had a boss who needed constant attention and teammates who always wanted help. I felt I was crucified on my own special cross but salvation was not what I had.
I DESPERATELY needed SANITY. Like if I could buy it at the drug store I would have emptied the whole rack. Over a Friday night drink, I met a friend right after the new Avengers movie, and we started drafting our Infinity stones - RULES that make teams win (and FRANKLY leaders like us, sane)!
Think about this -
“If you are a leader of people or are managing a team, do you know what is percolating down to your team?” Are they energized enough to come to work every day? It would be of utmost importance to think of how you are spending time effectively with your team and how much meaning they derive out of the work they do.
I like to think about it as an invisible rope that ties the team together. Consider yourself at the center of this tied up rope and you are connected to every individual point of that rope. The rope is flexible, can be pushed or pulled from different angles but it will still keep the team in place as long as the rope is thick enough. This rope might not be as thick right from the start but there are ways to make it so.
How do you focus on aspects that will strengthen the bonds that bind your team? The more in synch they are together and collaboration precedes every action, the more effective they would be in producing results. Indeed you will have a high performing team on your hands if you do focus on the following basics I have learned from my experience, or will be on your way making the Leader of the Year list!
So what would it take to really set some pattern and predictability in the mix?
Where is the sixth infinity stone?
1. Make everyone feel like a quarterback
I realized that every team member is different in their personality traits. Each individual brings a different perspective to the table. Aspirationally every team member wants to be the quarterback on the winning team. The challenge? There is only 1 quarterback in the game. However, it's easier to have people believe that each and every member of the team is a quarterback.
“Instead of suppressing individualism, a leader must enhance and constantly talk about what makes each team member special - or you might as well be in the army, right?”
It is important to understand the individual and try to craft a journey for them that would include strengthening their weaknesses and leveraging their strengths, hone their skills productively and ensure that this journey fits well within their career goals. Giving a chance to such diversity will, in turn, help team members learn from each other and grow. I think of it as an equalizer to fine-tune my team’s skills to get the best results out of them.
2. Addressing grievances
Humans are a mixed bag of emotions, fragile, imperfect. Grievances are something that we use to make the world hear about our pangs in getting the job done to satisfaction. The tools we lack, the comfort of the environment we work, the information we need to be successful. All form part of the basic hygiene that goes towards producing the product or service that drives our business. As a leader, I need a keen ear and a compassionate approach to hearing out grievances of my team and addressing them.
3. A balanced organization for constant engagement
My team is ever-changing. New people coming in, some folks leaving or being on leave, etc. This constant dynamic of the team means that, as a leader, I should be talking to my team constantly about team goals and the vision for their everyday journey. Defining the end goal is important so as to not have my team lose focus on the objective and end result. Every individual in my team may interpret a written-down goal differently and can lead to conflicts and disasters. While you may want healthy debates, you certainly don’t want disparity in the understanding of the vision of the organization, right? I think it would be important to nudge them every once in a while and help them understand why you are doing what you are doing, with a fair balanced approach. Constant engagement and communication is key
4. Be aware of team maturity
Every team goes through 4 stages of learning and development - forming, storming, norming and performing. As a team leader, I should be aware of where my team lies and help them be aware of this too. In my opinion, it is important to tell them that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they are progressing. Of course, capping it at some level and keeping constant checks would be important in this too.
“The culture of any organisation is the engine and it’s this culture that keeps it humming. I make sure I communicate about the core belief system of my organisation to my team so there is no gap or misalignment.”
As Harvard Business Review puts it rightly, “Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is, of course, most of the time”.
5. Encourage ownership
I asked myself some tough questions - Do you trust your team with responsibilities? Is there an environment of contributing by taking up ownership? What I realized is that I have a very young and enthusiastic team - the future is in the hands of the Millennial generation.
“They don’t like to be told what to do, so I try giving them the key to seeing how they turn locks of all kinds.”
When I give ownership to them, they feel trusted and that empowers them to do more. I have to muster the courage to entrust them with more than what I think they can handle and help them to work with full potential. Building a sense of ownership will help them gain more confidence and I learned the hard way that I shouldn’t be wary of failures and instead give them the freedom of creativity.
One interesting example of great company culture and creating winning teams I came across, is that of Zappos - culture is so important at Zappos that the company offers new hires $2,000 to quit after they complete training if they feel it’s not the right fit. So in summary, I think the underlying current of it all is - as a leader get ready to experiment and take risks to get the best out of your team. Use emotions to express the pulse of the team and help them express freely too.
You’ve reached the finish line of this article and I’m so grateful for your time! But there is something that’s still missing. I only jotted out five of six infinity stones here, can you help me with the sixth one? Would love for you to comment below and tell me what according to you should be the six infinity stones in this stack. Pretty sure one of those would help me bag a spot on the Leader of the Year list ;)