This is my ode to my team & our transformation Journey
“Talent wins games but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” — Michael Jordan
A little more than 4 years ago, in September 2012, I put behind the trepidation of leaving the Microsoft school after 16 years of education there, to take on a transformation challenge in an unnerving, unceasing, constantly evolving dynamic market of contact centres. Since that day, the one constant has been that business fundamentals have relentlessly evolved in different directions against its counters. These 4+ years have represented these evolutionary, and sometimes revolutionary changes and were typified as we built teams, took bullets, withstood financial re-engineering, warded off competitive onslaughts & various other pulls and pressures that were exerted on the business. Our goal is and will always be to remain unscathed and be a leading and pioneering contender for the top spot.
People as the belief engine: A dear friend of mine once so beautifully wrote “Those who prophesize failure are the ones who should inhabit your shrine”. Everyone loves the value of tailwinds, but headwinds have their own role. The quicker you are to separate the wheat from the chaff & house a team of believers, the faster you get off the mark. Staying the middle ground will only get you hit from both sides. Then comes the challenge of retaining, motivating, enticing these believers to the promised land. This is easier said than done. The balance between praise & appraise, encouraging debate not dissent/challenge not consent, grounding the high achievers from getting ahead of themselves to compensating them for effort rather than results are key to the journey. Leaders often expect loyalty but seldom give. Loyalty & gratitude expressed is often the elixir.
Intellectual honesty: At many stages of transformation, the more you change things, the more they seem to remain the same. Intellectual integrity of your strategic plan, that comes from the team’s collective experiential value is the only shoulder you lean on. In the early quarters of transformation, better than expected “bad results” are the only indicators. The seemingly slow progress of your strategic decisions can be frustrating. Periodic evaluation of plans is important but not more than the virtue of patience. In this journey, I am reminded often of the Chinese bamboo, something, they see as a symbol of prosperity. You can plant a bamboo seed, water and nurture it but despite the careful nurturing, you wouldn’t see it sprout for years. Once you see the sprouts, however, it can catch up all the lost growth in matter of days. The sprouts take longer as they are building their root structure for the anticipated growth. In order to ease the eerie calm of expectations, a delicate balance is required: Patience for results needs to be tempered with an impatience for lack of passion, commitment, hard work, collaboration, belief and an intolerance for Prima Donna’s.
Story Telling is a Leadership Skill: Story telling is not about spinning a yarn- It is the panacea to survive and then thrive. You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere. I found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you are willing to sacrifice to accomplish it. In the early years of transforming, there remains an uneasy, frustrating calm of several quarters. It stirs up the appetite of your detractors, internally & externally, to exercise their daggers. Story telling — To Executive Management, it’s that “Picture” of success that you portray & promise. To the customer/partner, it’s that protagonist trying to woo the audience. To your people, it’s that emotional honesty that buys a repeat audience. Story-tellers bring box-office growth, not salesmen.
The Symphony of Execution: Execution is akin to an orchestra. Everyone has their notes to play. The leader becomes the conductor who sways his or her wand to make music. When the conductor can get his/her team to listen to each other, it can be the most rewarding of performances. That said, my learning has been that different situation requires different roles for the leader. While you play the conductor at most times, be prepared to play one of the musicians, if the situation demands, and pass the conductor wand to an able, relentless, trust-worthy, team member. You must stop wearing your title on your sleeve as your impact as a musician, in some situations, is more valuable than that of a conductor. Because the single most important element in a musical performance that holds everything together is…(not the conductor!!!) but each musician’s ability to listen & play as an ensemble. Motivation is everything. You can do the work of two people, but you can’t be two people. Instead, you have to inspire the next person down the line and get him/her to inspire his/her people. As the saying goes — The speed of the boss is the speed of the team
This journey has been one of learning and emboldenment. It has taught me from the bamboo shoots and the symphony of people and nature that patience is the first ingredient of change, but it is useless without persistence. It has taught me that an institution cannot be honest without being keen to hone its path.
The idea of “self-made” is a fallacy. This is my tribute to my team — the believers, the story-tellers, the conductors & the musicians. This is our transformation story- the 4 years, the 4 principles. The key ASPECT‘s of our growth
Now, onward — from sprout to shoot.