Sanjeeb Patel is the Director of Software Engineering for the Sabre Travel Network Product Development group at the Sabre Global Capability Center in Bengaluru. Sanjeeb joined Sabre Corporation in March 2019 and leads the (Bengaluru) team behind the corporate booking platform – GetThere™. Prior to joining Sabre, Sanjeeb worked with the Walmart Group where he spent more than 13 years in their US and India offices, assuming various roles. He was instrumental in the in the M&A of Kosmix during his stint with Walmart in the US, and back in India, he led the Walmart Labs team that developed ‘ASDA-Grocery (Walmart, UK)’, ‘George.com’ and ‘Walmart, Canada’.
What is a ‘team’? To me, a team is a group of people who trust and respect each other, working towards a common goal – as simple as that. The goal is always achieved by the team, and not by individuals. So, how do we build the right team and optimize performance? Let’s go step by step.
- Build a diverse team: One person may not know everything. Typically, a mix and match of different sets of people with diverse knowledge and backgrounds work the best. The right combination can do wonders. In team sports, you may have seen numerous instances where a star-studded team loses, whereas a team with not-so-famous players win the match. Why do you think that is? It’s all about whether a group of individuals can put their best foot forward as a team, and not as individuals. Lionel Messi can dribble really well, but if the forward combo is not working out, then his dribbling is of no value.
- Get the best out of the team members: If you have a garden with different kinds of plants, each plant will have a different care regimen. Similarly, each team member has to be nurtured based on their needs and skillsets. So, you need to engage with your team at an individual level to understand them better. Help boost the confidence of your people. Self-confidence of a person depends on how they have been brought up, and what kind of environment one has worked in, etc. As a leader, you must work on building trust, so that your team members feel comfortable and have the self-confidence to do things better.
- Fit the right person to the right place: Each of us have our own strengths. In an IT development environment, one may be very strong at process execution, someone else maybe good with Project Management, and somebody else maybe good with Technology, so on and so forth. To achieve a business goal, you need a combination of all these skillsets to get the optimal output. You should be able to assign the right people in the right roles, in order to help you achieve your business objectives.
- Be a mentor and coach: We need to understand and respect the limitations of our team members. In team environments most of the time we don’t need heroes, we just need to push our boundaries and optimize the overall output of the team and believe me that all that’s needed. People typically confuse growth and progress – growth is contextual, and if you start thinking about your individual growth all the time, it can prove to be counterproductive. How can you grow within a team is something most needs mentoring and coaching for. Again, the same example about the garden with different plants, applies here as well – their growth is intertwined, the context of the garden and not the individual plants.
- Psychological safety: During tough times, what matters the most is – how connected you are, how much do you trust each other, and how do the team members treat each other, amongst other things. The willingness to be there for each other is probably what matters the most as a team. Teams that are cohesive can do wonders, without the need for any heroes.
- Listen, appreciate, and give due credit: Treat the growth of your team members as one of your primary goals, and by growth I don’t mean just promotions. You must look at the multi-dimensional growth of your people. You have to provide them opportunities to excel at what they are good at, and at the same time help them improve in areas where they’re weak. If and when they improve, it’s your success. And when team members improve, the organization improves – culturally and financially.
- Show the path for the vision and that’s it: You don’t need to handhold or spoon-feed people; you just need to offer them space and flexibility. Most of us can stretch our limits and boundaries if we set our mind to it. For instance, if I am running 3 kms every day, four days a week, then can I not push myself to run 4 kms every day? Of course, I can. All we need is some motivation.
All of this is much easier said, than done. While many managers/leaders may struggle to find the right balance, it is not rocket science. If we focus and concentrate on our people, we should be able to unlock and nurture highly successful teams.