Monday, July 31, 2006

Building a Team

Often leaders and managers are faced with a lot of people management issues- the challenges that they face are related to getting a right team as well as coaching an exisiting team for higher performance!!

This has been talked about in many books but none can argue on the fact of getting the right people for the job! It seems to be a cliche always and I just wanted to share some of the snippets from a recent book that I read: It was really interesting and without even realizing these fundamentals, my intuitive way of building a team has worked wonders for me at Photon (

After significant years of experience, we might assume that the first step in BUILDING an organization would be to set a new direction, a new vision and strategy for the company AND THEN get people committed and aligned behind that new direction.

You might be surprised that usually its the OPPOSITE.

Usually the leaders who have created/built large organizations DID NOT first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there!! They first got the RIGHT people on the bus (and the WRONG people off the bus) and then FIGURED out where to drive it.

They said, in essence, "Look, I dont really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we will figure out how to take it someplace great."

These leaders understood three simple truths:

1) If you begin with "who" rather than "what" you can easily adapt to changing world. If people join the bus primarily because of where it is going, what happens if you get 10 miles down the road and you need to change direction? You've got a problem. But if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus then it is much easier to change the direction: "Hey, I got on this bus because of who else is on it; if we need to change direction to be more successful, fine with me"

2) If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. The right people don't need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self- motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.

3) If you have the wrong people, it does'nt matter whether you discover the right direction, you still wont have a great company. GREAT VISION without great people is irrelevant.

I just read KEN KESEY's classic statement about the same also : "There are going to be times when we can't wait for somebody. Now, you're either on the bus or off the bus"

In Photon, we started off as a small team of 15 people who strictly followed the above 3 points. All the 15 people believed in "WHO" rather than "WHAT" and that was the reason why we were able to change the directions of the bus time and again based on business priorities. Today the business has grown from 15 people to 800 people and I salute my team(ofcourse I take some credit in building them) for sticking it out! The most difficult part is sticking it out the tough times and during those phases, having the right people in the team always helps!

Thinking back, these leadership rules seems very obvious to me as I had implemented the same very intuitively but during those days it was much more of a roller coaster ride!

Thanks to the Photon team!