Building The Right Team For Your Organization Needs : Avnish Anand

Leader: Avnish Anand, CoFounder CaratLane

So the way we do team building and what I’ve learned in my life about team building comes from the world of sports. So I’m a huge fan of this NBA team called the San Antonio Spurs. A lot of what I’ve read and learned has started from how I’ve seen the San Antonio spurs operate. The first thing which I see about the spurs is that team building first starts by getting your business strategy right.

What we want to do as an organization depends on what do you want to do as a business? Right. So depending on what kind of company you want to be and how you want to play, you decide on your team building plan. So in the case of the spurs, I would say that they play a lot of team first basketball based on a lot of three-point shooting, which has been their plan, like long before it became the norm in the NBA.

So based on that, We have also figured out our own approach to team building. Like what kind of organization we want to be. Well, how do we want to play? Accordingly we figure out what should be a team building philosophy. So like in the case of CaratLane, for example, because we are a startup. Although we are now almost 12 years old, we still have that  day-zero mentality and we’re still trying to hustle and build and innovate and move fast and be agile.

So based on those needs of the business, right, that’s how the business needs to be. That we have to keep getting better, keep solving our problems. And it’s a very complicated business. Selling jewelry to an omni-channel method. So we want to build a team which helps us be like that as an organization.

That is how the business strategy transcends or translates rather into the team-building philosophy. And once you have that in place, then you get to the next pieces, right? So essentially when you think of team building, there are five or six components. So it starts from hiring. Then how do you train and onboard how you set up your goals, how you set up your measurements and reviews, what kind of culture you want to build?

And you know, what are the other special things that you do to make it work for you? So the first thing is about the hiring. So I’m a huge fan again, borrowing from sports of the Moneyball approach. But while Moneyball is more popular, what Moneyball does is something with the San Antonio Spurs have practice for a long, long time before that. It essentially figures out how to identify the kind of people you need.

And you look for parameters, which are, in a way, undervalued. Meaning that everybody can look for a superstar. But a superstar is highly, highly overvalued in the same parlance, we can all look for IIT, IIM graduates, but we know that they are going to be highly, highly overvalued. So while you need a few, you have to find out what is the kind of person you need, what is the kind of talent which you can find, which works for the organization, but it is undervalued in the market.

So if I look at the classic example of Zoho, Sridhar Vembu has hired people who are not even 12 pass and train them to become great technology folks. That’s the template we try and follow at CaratLane also. That how do we find people who fit our bill who have the potential, who can be trained, but we’re not overvalued, right?

They’re undervalued. They might not be prized as much by everybody else. And to deliver that you need to put in place a hiring plan, a recruitment plan, which can find such people and across the organization you can standardize the process of recruitment and hiring so that you get such people into the system.

So that’s number one. How do you keep finding people who are undervalued by the industry, but who work perfectly well for you in the strategy which you have created for your organization? The second thing, which is important because you are now hiring on potential, you are hiring a lot of undervalued stars for a lot of your roles is to have a great onboarding method, accurate training, coaching program in place to make sure that they truly realize their full potential.

And this comes in the form of opportunities, the teams they work with, the people they are exposed to. So this is something which I would say is a never-ending process. But this is something which we have worked on and we have figured out ways to give the right kind of exposure to a lot of young people who have the raw material in terms of both skills and aptitudes or attitude.

But who needs the exposure to really realize the full potential in terms of the opportunities. And you work on a lot of projects like that. You work with a lot of senior folks, you will work with a lot of peers who help you become better at what you do. So this is how the two important pieces of recruitment or hiring and onboarding and training goal.

Right. Which helps you execute, what is essentially your team-building philosophy, right? The third part is how you do goal setting. So again you know, while all of us are performance oriented and results oriented, but sometimes when you’re only outcome focused, you lose the sense of the process, right?

Because there are a lot of external factors which could favorably or unfavorably influence the end result, right. The outcome. But it need not mean that you follow the right process you played the right way. Right. So we try and set our goals in a way that we keep in mind, both the process orientation, as well as the goal focus so that people who do the right thing every time I’m not afraid or not, are not worried about getting it wrong and not only result focused so that as long as you follow the process, you feel sure that I’m not going to be penalized for that.

Even if the results are not favorable, that’s an important part of how we do goal setting in the organization, whether it is for teams or it is for individuals, which allows us to have that focus both on the process as well as the outcome. The next part is how we do reviews of how things are going.

And again one of the things that I think is important for our organization, in terms of being a fairly agile, right and to solve problems quicker is to have a high level of transparency and to have a high level of accountability. Right. So we have set up our processes, the way people see data, the way people see results, the way people see results of projects in a fairly transparent manner, right?

Irrespective of which team you belong to , what level you are, you have access to a lot of other information and we have weekly monthly reviews in which all of this information is presented to everybody so that we build accountability for everybody. And the way the goal setting is done, like I said earlier is also done in a manner that there are clear business goals, which people are chasing.

And we are also talking about the process and the lead metrics to get to that. So this ensures that, you know, there is a lot of accountability and people are honest with each other and there’s a lot of transparency also in that. In all of this, there is a very important part, which again, also comes down to what kind of organization you want to be.

And given the space in which we operate, it’s very important that we do a lot of experiments and we do a lot of risks. We take a lot of risks rather, in all of this you know, while you can keep preaching that we should take risks and we should practice experimentation. It actually doesn’t happen a lot of times, right.

Because people are always worried that if I take risks, if I try things which might be risky and if they don’t do up what will happen, right. In the classical thing, right. That nobody gets fired for hiring IBM. Right? So in this, what we learned that while we were saying that don’t be afraid and please take risks, please take chances. It wasn’t actually happening in that way. And then we realized that actually more than the talk, right? Your actions signal to the organization and to the teams, whether it is okay. And whether it is encouraged to take risks. Essentially, what it means is that when failure happens, how does the organization respond to it?

How does the leadership team respond to it? And we saw that we were not doing it right a lot of times. And therefore we made conscious change. We’ll fix it, right. That when failure happens, you don’t celebrate failure, but you celebrate the fact that you learnt something and you won’t make that same mistake again, or, you know, better than what you knew before you did that experiment and in your body language you have to be very careful that you don’t show any negativity or disappointment at having failed because that’s something which people grasp very well and very quickly, and it just sends the wrong message. So if you’re trying to build a team where we want to encourage risk-taking, this is something which is extremely, extremely important.

So. Another thing, which is a very important part of our team building exercise is that by, like I said earlier, right. That we encourage potential, not just your past performance. Right. And we try and do that internally also a lot. So, you know, there are a lot of people who are. I would say a little unfortunate in life that they didn’t get the same kind of opportunities which a lot of others get in terms of going to great colleges or great schools and getting into the right kinds of companies. So there are people who might be in a job which they have because they didn’t get these opportunities, but they have the hunger to do more. Right. They have the hunger to change the trajectory of that.

And you know, better roles. Today it is very hard for them because it means going back to college and getting an education and trying again. And not only is it time taking and expensive, it’s still not a given. So one other thing which we are trying to do now is to give a chance to these people.

Essentially how it works is that you identify such people first. They have to kind of qualify for this, right? That it’s not just that you want to do that. You also have to show enough promise that you are somebody who should be considered for this. Then you get attached to a mentor who helps you learn some of the skills that you otherwise don’t have.

By giving you small projects first, then more bigger projects. And over a period of a year or two, you will be gradually moved into a role, which you otherwise would not have been able to get like an MIS person moving into the role of an analyst or moving into the role of a product manager, you would not expect an MIS person to get into that role, but we definitely want to build, and we are trying to do that.

And we have some people who are already in this journey of moving from a role, which would not have taken them to something like a product manager but essentially changing that. So they can now move that into a role. And as you would understand each of these pieces help to build the culture, right?

The kind of people you are hiring and the kind of the way you are hiring them based on potential and also for cultural fit and attitude ,then how you train them. Then how do you set the goals and do your reviews? The other important piece in all of this is how you also do measurement, right? So it can’t just be KRA based obviously. It can’t just be outcome based, essentially. Like I said, it has to factor in the process as well. And then you also have to factor in all the other intangibles, right? All the cultural variables which are important. Like if you feel that teamwork is an important attribute for your organization and you want to encourage teamwork, right.

Then you need to have a way to measure that because otherwise, if you don’t reward or recognize people who do a great job of that, it’s not going to work. So, and this is something that I learned from Laszlo Bock’s book about how we build HR practices in Google is that you figure out ways where people get rated by their peers on how well they work with each other, whether they would want to have them in their teams or not.

Which essentially gives you some kind of a measure of how well these people work in teams. And this is just one example, but essentially each of these traits or attitudes which you value need to be converted into some kind of a score on a measure, which allows you to also understand are people living the values that you want, are they living up to the kind of culture that you want to create?

So while there are performance measurements in terms of the business goals, people also need to be measured and recognized on these attitude variables, right? So that is something which is extremely important and which is something that I have learned that I think is an extremely important part of building teams.

And a similar example of that is something which also comes from sports, which is called a glue guy, right? Essentially glue guys, a glue guy rather or a glue girl is somebody who might not have the best stats, but they make that teams better. They help their teams win. And these are essentially high IQ, high EQ, selfless individuals who do all the dirty work and who help that teammates get better and their team win.

Now, again, the world of sports has done a great job in recognizing such people. And they have very interesting analytics, which is in place to identify such people. I think that the corporate world has not figured out such practices yet, but we are making an effort in our organizations to do this, and we have just started taking baby steps and I feel that this is an important part of team building because these are essentially the glue, which holds the team together. Right? So this is another thing which I feel is a very important part of my own or our organization’s philosophy of building teams and let’s essentially all of these things together, they constitute what I would say is the culture of the team. And yeah, so that is pretty much how things happen at CaratLane.





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