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Informal team-building exercises score over traditional strategies

Special Correspondent

IT companies rely heavily on bringing out the best in their group

BANGALORE: Most information technology firms, including those in the business process outsourcing (BPO) segment, rely on closely-knit teams functioning at their optimum best.

"The attitudes of the top management towards team leaders and team building has changed over the past five years and it has been for the best," says M.K. Rao, a former corporate HR head.

"The older attitude of `training and reorienting' team members to fit with the company's norms has given way to capitalising on the best qualities of each individual without expecting uniformity," he says.

`Break all rules'

The well-known Gallup Poll survey of thousands of managers in all sectors of business from fast-food chains to international banks is believed to have set this change in motion.

The bestseller First Break All The Rules, which has drawn heavily for the Gallup survey, explains this process in detail, says K. Panduranga, a management trainer.

The concept is simple: There are people whose strengths are different. One may be good at achieving self-imposed targets while another great at cultivating potential customers. Yet another team member may be good at coming up with ideas that make business processing simpler. Some others are brilliant analysts and some good empathisers who can find out what others are good at or not.

Overcoming weaknesses

"Good managers need to discover their own strengths and build on them instead of attending umpteen seminars and coaching sessions to overcome what the top management perceive as weaknesses," says Mr. Rao.

The rule that a team leader only leads and does not have not perform has become outdated, he feels. In fact, the better a person is in tasks before the team, the better team leader he or she is likely to be.

"This of course does not mean that the team leader spends too much time pitching in with his or her team members but instead spends time on understanding their areas of strength and making optimum use of those strengths at work," says Mr. Panduranga.

This is where many old-style managers fail because they expect uniform skills from all employees, which just does not happen in real life.

Informal interaction

Is there a way a team leader can find out what are the core strengths and competencies of each team member? There are psychometric tests or questionnaires.

But there is a more effective method says Mr. Rao, who spent four decades in training young team leaders.

"Get to know them in informal surroundings ... perhaps over coffee in the canteen or even invite them home. Friendly conversation away from the workplace can often reveal more about a person," he advises.

After that it is left to the manager's individual functional style to make use of these strengths.

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