Identifying the right members to staff a team is the first step to building a successful team. Yuen Keng Au, director for human resources at BD in Central Asia, assesses the leader’s role in this, in a conversation with Aditi Sharma Kalra.
Team structures at BD are a mix of both formal and informal, each with their own nuances. The solid-line reporting structure makes formal teams perhaps slightly easier to manage, while informal teams are regularly appointed for time-bound, project-specific needs.
“Informal teams are usually put together very quickly, so it is up to the leader to identify the people to get on board. That also means developing trust among them, having credibility to command their respect, and monitoring their progress,” says Yuen Keng Au, director for human resources at BD in Central Asia.
Therefore, understanding the people within the organisation becomes very important, which Keng says, a good leader should be doing on an ongoing basis.
This knowledge of potential team members is supported by the performance management process, which brings out an employee’s strengths, areas of development and the developmental opportunities available.
“If you have built a strong working relationship with your people, this would not need to be a ‘formal’ dialogue, as these areas would have been discussed continuously while working together. For instance, if someone is excited about an upcoming project, they would have raised their hand upfront, instead of waiting.”
It is clear that gauging employees’ needs on an ongoing basis is an important task in identifying the right members for a team.
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Different needs for different members
Be it formal or informal teams, each one has its own blend of high to low performers along the bell curve.
Keng advises keeping super performers engaged with regional projects, as well as cross-geographical responsibilities where possible. She also makes it a point to connect with them beyond the regular monthly meeting.
For team members who require improvement, however, she believes it is important for the leader to be prepared to spend additional hours in upping their performance.
“When looking to hire somebody, team leaders would be faced with whether to find someone very skilled, who may not be easily available in the market, or to pick someone who is half ready, but can be groomed to fill the role.”
It’s in the latter case where a lot of time in coaching would be required from the leader.
“If you make a clear decision at the point of hiring, you also learn about their areas of development that you have to watch out for.
“To ensure things don’t fall through the cracks, I tend to spend a little bit more time with the individual – behind-the-scene coaching, front-of-the-scene coaching, more guidance and a little bit more monitoring.”
However, she cautions these team members should not feel like they are being constantly tracked, and it’s important for the leader to allow the employee to make their own independent decisions.
Her tips to improve overall team effectiveness? “The starting point is always diagnosis, understanding the cause of the problem before one starts prescribing solutions.”
She believes it’s not only about using the right tools to build a team, but also for both the team leader and team members to walk into the team with the right mindset.
“If you don’t treat each other with respect, you are starting off on the wrong foot. That will never allow for any decent conversation to take place.”