Even as I look back over the close to 4 decades of professional life, one thing stands out head and shoulders above all else.
The wonderful support I received from the teams that I worked with right through my career!
Starting with the advertising firm, where I got my grounding, and indeed my first ‘hammering’ by my boss, taught me a lot about the need to have an eye for detail, and staying true to business commitments made, come what may!
The aspirations which I felt had not been fulfilled did leave gaps in my learning, but they also taught me what young aspirants look for when they become a part of any team, at whichever level.
No one joins any organisation, except with the intention of excelling and doing well in their roles.
I am no different from any other, and when I found the atmosphere in any firm I worked with, not really being able to deliver on what I had set my sights on, I moved on.
The first major team I was privileged to be a part of was the group of people at India’s largest IT services company. The first few days threw up a few gems.
The Asst Editor of the magazine, who came out with a brainwave on how to get the magazine back on track. Or indeed, the person she replaced, who became an ideas man and delivered some great films for the firm – from idea to execution. His enthusiasm was amazing, as indeed his out of the box thinking.
The others in the communications team were also amazing – and they generated one successful campaign after another- both internally and externally.
During this stint, I learnt a few more things about team dynamics.
Keep them focused on the business goals. Speak to them one on one to understand the challenges they face. Give them opportunities – sometimes by throwing them into the deep end of the pool, hoping they could swim, and helping them if they could not.
Later, as the Marketing Director of an MNC consulting, technology, and outsourcing firm, I once again inherited a team. I have already written about their unique ways of interviewing, where the team members themselves spent time with me to understand me better – more importantly to gauge, whether I would be fit to lead them. I spent the first few days addressing a few challenges, but every time I needed help or guidance, I turned to these team members. And they always responded magnificently. In turn I had to play the role of a father figure to a few, where endless hours over beverages were invested, just so that my team members could vent.
This is where I learnt that there needs to be great bonding between teams. After office, we all need to be friends. That is what I tried and encouraged, and the testimony of my tenure there can only be the farewell film which the team made for me – one that brought tears to my eyes.
In most of the firms I worked with, I invariably inherited teams, and learnt hugely from each of them. My contribution was only to keep them focused, encourage them whenever required, be available to listen to them at any time of the day, and to create a bond of mutual respect, where no one was any more or less than the others.
It was when I moved to India’s largest PR firm as an SBU head, that I got my first chance at building teams from scratch. Many were hired, and the SBU quickly became a great place to work. Every time there was a person from another team who wanted to leave the firm, they first came to me to check if we had any vacancies in my SBU. To me, that said it all.
I still remember a young boy, who was a trainee, who used to follow me around almost all the time, wanting to be a part of our team. His persistence finally won out, and today, he is someone I would trust my life with.
There is also the story of my de-facto #2 – a wonderfully warm person, who was also the most hardworking of them all. We used to have our differences, but she was my guide in many ways. And I can’t thank her enough for being the person she is. She was single handedly responsible for building up a unique relationship with all our branches, the result being that we always got the best coverage across the country.
Then there is the example of a former journalist, who was a part of the team. Always willing to take on any challenge, and always delivering successfully. To her, everything was possible, and we sometimes did get into trouble with our client on deadline related issues, thanks to her enthusiasmJ. But she always meant well and did a splendid job.
I also fondly remember another team member, who was an embedded resource managing internal communications for our MNC services client. Always with a smile on her face, a keen learner, and always with suggestions on how to do things better. A true gem, operating out of her comfort zone.
The Delhi and Bangalore teams were no different. Always ready to have a party, but also always the first ones to point out where they thought I was going wrong. I remember one trainee from Bangalore in particular. She was assigned to do the documentation for our Bangalore IT services client. And boy, did she excel. Never a complaint. Today, she has successfully graduated from the prestigious IIM-A, and is working at India’s largest, most respected business house as a part of their elite cadre.
I often wonder why I was so fortunate. What had I done to deserve this loyalty? I never took people from my existing organisation to the next one. Never. But worked on building a good relationship with the folks who had welcomed me into the team.
Many thoughts come to mind, as I introspect. And some of these thoughts are the postscript to this piece. This is not an exhaustive list. It is just my way of saying a BIG THANK YOU to all those who have blessed my life by being fabulous professional colleagues. And beyond colleagues, we are all friends – to this date!
- Tell each one about the importance of their job, and how their contribution counts. It did not matter if the person was doing daily media tracking!
- Have an open-door policy…be approachable.
- Seek their counsel. There are many things they know or can do better than you.
- Respect them.
- Protect them against clients who are unbecoming and disrespectful in their behavior.
- Show them a career growth path.
- Empower them. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from these.
- Trust them…always.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.
When is your book coming out on this Corporate Working Culture. I don’t know if you have already written one because I have started reading your articles quite lately but I definitely feel that your experience should be very helpful to the budding people of similar career. Thanks for sharing.
Very well put Atul