Cracking the DNA code of teams


Often the debate goes…to navigate and reach shores through turbulent times, does one need a master Sailor, a better boat, a supportive and spirited team crew, lucky weather or  divine interventions at adverse moments….?  This is very similar to the question often debated… if one was marooned on an island and could carry only one item of food for  longest healthy survival with him, what food would that be ?

The right answer is Coconut followed by groundnut. The right answer for the Corporate
survival in turbulent times…leadership and team-work. Much as Coconut and groundnut are not connected, leadership and team-work are directly inter-connected.

Team-work is mirroring of leadership in action. Distill,disintegrate and closely analyse last 10 decisions taken by the leader for his team and you will be able to see a trend of the culture that drives behaviours in that group.

If you have been observant enough and analysed what effective leaders do to drive their team behaviours for results in turbulent times, you would distinctly see them doing the following 5 things:

1-Effective Leaders read and detect the early signals of changes in the environment to course correct and renavigate. Changes always happen in motion. It also does not come with a ceremonial brassband announcing its arrival. Subtle undercurrents of change will initially be experienced. The experienced leader will be able to read these early signals… the inexperienced will tend to ignore or neglect it. This is therefore about a leader’s seasoned judgment which cannot be taught thru books but is an outcome of quality experience which he brings on table. He analyses big data to observe trends that help him develop the new strategy once tectonic changes are perceived.

2-Effective Leaders communicate the business case for change and mobilizes the team-energy to steer through the new course. They play closely to the emotions of their teams and allays their fears and vulnerabilities. They give their team members confidence to continue the journey through adverse moments of change. Remember: ‘Most Admirable Leaders Inspire Action’. No Action – No Leadership!!!

3- Effective Leaders focus on individual ‘happiness’ of team members before engaging them on collective Team Engagement. Before consolidating the collective involvement of all members, they focus on individuals. Logic is simple…happy individuals engage in teams better than unhappy people. Therefore first invest in happiness of individuals and later invest on collective engagement to evolve innovations for the new Design to face the challenges and deliver their promise. Such leaders foster a learning environment in the system.

4-Effective Leaders scan the environment to identify the new tools, best practices, right programs and appropriate processes that should be introduced in the system. They systematically build the new capabilities required in the team to continue winning the march.

5-Effective Leaders reward performers and Coach the slow performers. However they are also firm about delivery. They objectively replace the team’s non-performing talent with potential performers. He ‘right’ resources the team. Here is where the difference lies –
objective governance. Such replacement decisions by effective leaders are taken not on the basis of power politics or individual preferences but purely on the basis of performance. Ineffective leaders take such replacement decisions for personal reasons, favors and gains.

These are the 5 unique things that effective leaders do. Needless to say that whilst they
do these things, they do not stop doing what good leaders do in normal times…
Effective Planning, Positive Organising, Efficient Staffing, Mature Leading, Objective
Controlling and Friendly Co-ordinating.Teams have to continue Creating-Value despite turbulent times and adverse challenges. And that is the biggest challenge. The car engine halts for repairs and replacements. Organisational change adjustments and transformations have to happen in motion. Effective Leaders make teams their partners in the new journey by involving them in creating value for their Customers and other stake-holders. They
offer attractive wealth-creation programs to members to invest their discretionary efforts
to succeed in creating the desired Enterprise Value.

Effective team leaders in the new paradigm are measured by two unique parameters. First, they are no longer measured by the total numbers of followers they create in the system. They are actually measured by the total number of leaders they succeed in creating for the future of the enterprise. Second, such leaders though immersed and invested with full powers, are measured for their efficiency on the basis of the least quantum of that power used by them to deliver their results. Effectively, it means that such leaders are valued for using inter-personal and influencing skills to derive value rather than fear-power. Effective conflict- resolution and consensus building skills help him in managing the ever challenging new context.

Two follies that leaders make whilst working towards building effective teams…one, they
believe that one-off team building out-bound sessions are the ultime team building drivers.
Out-bound team building sessions cannot really help a leader with real-time sustainable
team building challenges as often mistakenly believed. Ofcourse there are elements of fun
and fraternising which help the leader lighten the team atmosphere occasionally when
he experiences tension in the team. But the limited effects of such fraternising exercises
ware-off as fast as they set-in (soda-effect).  They should not mistake the trees for the

Two, they believe that employee socialising events and programs that pretend to be
‘Employee Engagement Initiatives’ have or can provide the desired team results. The fact
is that all stake-holders and share-holders have to first feel ‘happy’ whilst they choose to work on their assignments. Singularly, the effective leaders therefore should focus on individual happiness making people realise the criticality of creating ‘value’ through team engagement and relationships.

Effective leaders have closely understood the unique DNA of the change system. They
master the art of cracking this code to create team value. And thus they succeed.

Author- Adil Malia, currently Chief Executive of ‘The FiRM’, a business management consultancy. A successful corporate professional and a senior business leader having worked for over 3 decades with Companies like Godrej, GE, M&S, Toysrus,Coca-Cola and Essar. Adil is a much sought-after ‘Key-Note’ speaker, a popular Leadership Coach.
His personal web site


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