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December 13, 2017, 05:10:39 AM
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: Lead a group of cats  ( 4068 )
« : February 14, 2010, 10:50:19 PM From Shrinidhi»



Lead a group of cats


A few years ago, just as I was starting out on my career, I read a very
interesting quote. "Don't lead a pack of sheep, herd cats instead." It
went on to add - "the bigger the better".

Years later, when I look back, it's this philosophy, this thought
process, which has helped me evolve as a banker. For a minute, let's
digress from the world of companies and look at sport. A couple of days
ago, a statement by cricketer Sachin Tendulkar created ripples in the
media. He had nonchalantly said during the course of an interview, "Yes,
Dhoni is a good captain, but you cannot ignore the fact that he has a
good team." Sachin was obviously hinting that a captain is only as good
as his team. Without taking anything away from Dhoni's captaincy, he was
stating that a great team even makes a mediocre captain look good.

Unlike sport, in modern day companies, as leaders, you often have the
flexibility to pick your own teams. While this is an opportunity, most
managers stumble at this roadblock. Often people pick teams that are
limited by their own bandwidth. They pick members who do not challenge
them, who do not threaten their own position. In essence, they pick team
members who would fall in line easily - "the sheep" in the initial
quote.

Have you ever seen a pack of sheep? All of them huddle together and
meekly follow instructions of the shepherd. A small stick wielded
efficiently keeps the whole pack together.

In such teams, where leaders hire sheep, a bulk of the leader's time
gets spent in doling out instructions, tracking and managing the
individuals and lastly, when he has the time, strategically think about
the future of the organisation. Sheep do not dissent, do not challenge,
do not question and, most importantly, do not contribute to the team's
cause intellectually. Unfortunately, managers' insecurity and lack of
faith in their own abilities leads them to pick a herd of sheep as their
team.

On the contrary, have you ever seen a group of cats. These are animals
with a mind of their own. Put three cats together and you will find them
doing their own thing. Each one will be jumping around, pulling in a
different direction. Have you ever considered what it will take to
manage a herd of cats? Impossible, some might say. However, in a group
or out of it, cats are fast, intellectually stimulating and managerially
challenging.

Imagine yourself leading a pack of such individuals. It would
undoubtedly put pressure on your ability to manage them and get them
aligned to a common goal, but pause for a moment and consider the
positives that such individuals would lend to a team. The incredible
depth in intellectual capability, the mind-blowing aggression in
executing challenges, the prodigious ability in conceiving solutions to
challenges and the enormous bandwidth that they will add to your team is
at times implausible. Yes, managing this team will test your skills,
challenge your leadership abilities and maybe, at times, even threaten
your position in the organisation - each one of the cats will have the
ability to upstage you.

If this scares you into hiring sheep rather than cats in your team,
there is one aspect of cats which you can derive solace from. If cats
get comfortable being with you, over a period of time they become
extremely loyal to you. Sheep, on the other side, can be herded by
almost anybody. It all depends on how you treat cats and get them to
build trust in you.

The message for managers in companies is simple. If you want to succeed
long term, are desirous of building an equity in the organisation, want
to be known as someone who is capable of building teams which have great
execution skills, then "sheep" will not get you there. Hire cats in your
team.

Rather than expect people to follow you blindly, wherever you lead them,
rely on your ability to get the best out of individuals by creating a
challenging environment. Quite like herding cats - it's much harder to
do but more exciting and livelier.

Didn't someone also say once - getting the right team is half the job
done - leading them efficiently to accomplish the mission is the other
half. Cats ensure the first half and also guarantee a fun-filled second
half. Do you still want to hire sheep? If yes, you are definitely not
the one I would have in
my pack.

(The writer is a senior banker at HSBC. These are his personal views)

 
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