One of the key challenges in managing a digital team is working with individuals who have a diverse set of skillsets. Working with artist, writers, analyst, planners, strategist, techies and people who manage relationships with clients. Getting such talents to work as one functional team is a necessity no matter how different they are individually or the physical distance between them. That said, how do you unlock this functional potential of your team? I like to think of a team as a band of musicians. I’d say something like Thaikudam bridge, where each individual who plays for that band is so unique yet they come together to play music that could range from heavy mental to some Sufi classics. I believe there is really a stronger kinship between building a corporate team and a band than that established by the fact that both groups collaborate to achieve common goals.
As in a band, so in a team, there is the need for a leader who can help hold it all together. While it’s an issue if everyone in the team works in their own capacity focusing only on their individual aspect of the whole and no one unites these efforts, it often becomes a bigger problem if too many people want to lead. Think of a band where the bassist is playing in what s/he understands to be the right scale while the lead vocalist is an octave apart! In the same way, while the team works on a digital solution for the client they need to have each others perspectives or else the situation can get quite awkward. For instance we see designers come up with such beautiful designs for websites which is probably not best suited for being optimised on search engines and this could lead to dissonance primarily due to lack of clarity on the larger picture. That is when the leader should step in to ensure that individual efforts are aligned to larger goals.
On a role
Every member comes with their own instrument, skill-sets and abilities and each of them have a role to play. It does not take more than one member of the band to be off key for the whole performance to collapse into a disastrous cacophony. In the same way, if anyone fails to play their part in our teams, the whole campaign can crash. While everyone needs to know what role they play, they also need to know when to play that part. In other words, every team/band member needs to know when to step in and when to step back. This is where we need to go beyond setting KRAs and ensure role clarity. Processes, no matter how flexible, thus help even in the most creative of teams. After all, adding a little method to madness does lead to magic!
In a spot
When it comes to some band performances, the battle for the spotlight often becomes very apparent. Similarly, in a work-team, there are those who often get side-lined while some have a hard time sharing the limelight. The need to be recognised is a universal one and tends to serve as a very strong motivator. Hence, when a team member feels unappreciated for his/her efforts repeatedly, the level of motivation gets affected adversely. In a band, it is most common to find the drummer or the base guitarist hidden somewhere at the back or shunned towards the side wings while the singers and the lead guitarist take (and often refuse to let go of!) centre stage. This not only results in ego-clashes but also makes certain team members feel undermined, unimportant and pretty much like a prop on stage.
When new members come along, whether in a band or in a work-team, it’s best to allow them enough time to settle in and come up the curve. Say a new singer is to be introduced. The ideal way to go about this would be to allow him/her to serve as a backup vocalist for a few songs till s/he is sure and comfortable enough to go solo and take center stage. Similarly, when new people join the team to face clients, it needs to be a carefully orchestrated shift. Being thrown in without the right grooming more often than not ends up failure. That, in turn, results in a dip in confidence and in self-worth.
Going with the flow
Every musician who plays music for a living would love to be a great performer. While there are those who are exceptionally methodical and perform with calculated precision, some of the best performers in my view would be the blues and jazz musicians who can that just pick up their instrument and jam with any team. This is probably because of two things. Firstly, they have their basics right and a strong foundation is hard to beat. Secondly, they have the ability to let loose and immerse themselves in the music. It’s a pleasure to experience the music they create when in the flow. Similarly, in corporate teams, some of the best performers are the ones who can lose themselves in the work they do and produce brilliant outputs. Be it great copy, or some fantastic art or even while writing a great presentation, being able to connect with the work you do, surely takes it up a notch.
The team that you work with is thus not very different from a band of gifted musicians. We might tend to forget that they are all “rockstars” in their own right. In order to get the pitch right, there needs to be mutual understanding and respect for each individual that makes up a team – every role that leads up to the final outcome. That is what leads to seamless collaboration – the perfect balance of the right-brained divergently creative thinker and the left-brained analysers. That’s when you, as a team, hit the right notes and together achieve more. Much more.