There is no big shot in our team!

“THERE IS NO BIG SHOT IN OUR TEAM!”, a phrase very commonly heard at any workplace. Doesn’t this statement seem bit contradictory? We refer to a TEAM and yet look for ONE big shot. Where is the team work, where is the leveraging of team members’ strengths as a whole? Is the vast ocean made of a single big drop of water? What makes us ignore or not capitalize on the strengths of all the team members? Is it too much of focus on their weaknesses or our being control freaks that leads us to focus mainly on the tasks to be delivered and not exceeding the delivery expectations?

I couldn’t help but ponder more on this after reading the following excerpt from “WINGS OF FIRE”  [chapter 13] – the autobiography of India’s ex-president, Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam:

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The young engineers, 280 to be precise, changed the dynamics of DRDL*. It was a valuable experience for all of us. We were now in a position to develop, through these young teams, a re-entry technology and structure, a millimetric wave radar, a phased array radar, rocket systems and other such equipment. When we first assigned these tasks to the young scientists, they did not fully grasp the importance of their work. Once they did, they felt uneasy under the burden of the tremendous faith placed in them. I still remember one young man telling me, “There is no big shot in our team, how will we be able to break through?” I told  him, “A big shot is a little shot who keeps on shooting, so keep trying.” It was astonishing to see how in the young scientific environment, negative attitudes changed to positive and things that were previously thought impractical began happening. Many older scientists were rejuvenated simply by being part of a young team. It has been my personal experience that the true flavour, the real fun, the continuous excitement of work lies in the process of doing it rather than in having it over and done with. To return to the four basic factors that I am convinced with are involved in successful outcomes: goal-setting, positive thinking, visualizing and believing.

*DRDL – Defence Research and Development Laboratory, Hyderabad

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Some key learnings that I could derive from this excerpt from a man who had the vision and could empower India’s youth to bring about a revolution:

* A small task isn’t really small when seen from a bigger perspective.

* Every effort in the right direction matters, even if it is miniscule.

* Never underestimate the strength of your team, capitalize on each member’s strength. One plus one does make eleven!

* Don’t just show your team that you’ve faith in them but also inspire and empower them to deliver.

* Don’t give up but believe in yourself and just do it.

* A right vision and a strong inspiration is very important to make any team shine.

* Bring about a synergy by combining the experience of the old with the skills of the young.

Random experiences during team management

Managing teams and working in groups has always been one of the best ways for me to learn and grow. Here are some interesting observations that I have made during past few years of handling teams. Few of these have helped me to a great extent in improving work environment, understanding team/individual and organization’s expectations, enhancing efficiency and productivity, besides team morale..  [I’ll take up the details on each of these experiences in my future posts]

– Some of the teams had been really wonderful, where members appreciate each other’s strengths and enjoy work. However, there are still a few everywhere who “DO NOT KNOW” how to enjoy the work. They ‘choose’ to crib and hence don’t give their best shot.

– It’s crucial to identify critical INTERNAL customers as well [different business units and stakeholders within the organization] and look towards building strong relationships with them. The idea is while providing services, employees of one department shouldn’t just focus on ‘completing their work’, rather they should go ahead and think of doing ‘value add’ to the overall organization. This helps the teams to get identified as a reservoir of energy and not just a department in some organization. Company meet and team’s day do help to an extent.. but interactions with ‘critical internal customers’ can do wonders and assist in conflict management.

– At times, we don’t have a choice for the kind of work and it’s being assigned to us, however, we can always make a choice of how to do that work.. Since not many know this, lack of energy & enthusiasm and sudden drifts in the willingness to work are visible among members.

– Giving real life examples, telling inspirational stories, does make 5% difference for a few days but again things are back to the same stage. The energy level vanishes soon because some people are concerned about their personal problems, some don’t feel happy with the work they are doing, some are not happy with the external customers they are working with and some have other concerns like salary, infrastructure, career path etc.. Mostly this happens when they have not seen the bigger picture of the industry, of the professional life and even the personal life.. They take decisions but not with a very high maturity level. Having a mentor or one-on-one sessions regularly helps to a major extent and results are reflected in terms of increased efficiency, good morale, pro-activeness among members.

– Every individual has IMMENSE FIRE hidden in himself/herself, however, it is very important for managers to identify that and ignite it before it loses its light and energy. The point is: it’s easy to let the good people go but extremely tough to retain that fire at right place.

– Some of the organizations I’ve worked with have amazing management committment towards its people. The formation of core groups in such organizations has been successful in setting the right example for everyone.

– Organizations do have strong Core values listed, however, the focus on implementation isn’t much, though exceptions are there. For example, Creativity as one of the core values looks wonderful on the hung plaque, however, if properly implemented can assist in turning people into organization’s assets.

– Teams need to be made aware of the importance of “attitude towards work”. Talking can help to an extent, however, making the teams visit places where people work with full energy and involving them in some interesting activity with those people can bring good changes. More you see is more you learn.


– Make the work fun, by starting small contests, like “idea of the month”, having a creativity board to allow free flow of thoughts, having an award system based on customer’s recommendation – these little things always help.

Shall continue sharing my learnings and experiences…