Watch out world – we are back with a mission this year. We are here for more bias breaking, glass ceiling shattering, and culture cleanups!
While writing this post, I thought I could perhaps give a sneak peek into what goes on in the superhero training academy that has led to 5X growth and Serein’s presence in 15 countries in just the last 12 months.
Joviality apart, achieving such big milestones without any external investment is no small feat – it sure takes thinking and execution outside the normal curve. Here’s what goes behind building my own Serein Superheroes who have worked together with single-minded focus and dedication and without ego to achieve such an extraordinary feat. More than anything else, I am happy that we have built a happy team.
But happiness – contentment – collaboration – no-ego culture – adherence to details – perfection – are not achieved overnight. It takes constant introspection and deliberate actions to build a team that adheres to these values.
- Hard work: One thing I have realised during the tough times of my career, whether during the gruelling four years of my Ph.D. or interviewing at Oxford, or while building this company – is that there is no substitute to hard work. The only way to build a world-class product for every client is to make sure the team gets into a constant habit of doing the mundane and tedious along with the fun aspect of ideating or conceptualising. And no one can set the culture of hard work but the leaders, by getting their hands dirty with the most tedious of jobs.
It’s easy to do the same presentation to the next client when you have tried and tested the content with 5 already, but it’s the customisation and the thorough research that goes behind that customisation that makes the product stand apart.
To foster this culture of “extra work” for every client, the whole team has to not only do it but be motivated and feel the need to do it. I am often most proud when my team members boast to each other about how many minute details and little typos they found in the hundreds of annual reports they checked or how they enjoy learning new formulas in Excel during their free time. This constant sense of taking pride in every task you take up – no matter how cool or uncool – is what makes a high-performing team.
- Fairness: A very different value than the one mentioned above but definitely makes for building a content and motivated team. But it is also one of the toughest things to implement as a leader – fairness in processes and communication (if you care about fairness, that is).
As a company whose business is to not only tell other organisations to promote equity but ask individuals to look around their biases, it’s only fair that an equitable space is created internally. But how do you practicse fairness when you are bootstrapped and your growth depends on clients’ choices and demands? Is it not fair to the company to assign the project to the senior-most employee, the most capable, or the person who has shown the project can be a success earlier? But in doing so we often take away the opportunity from another, who has prepared themselves for the role and is eager and dedicated to follow it through, irrespective of past experiences or age.
Another very important aspect of fairness is in the communication of recognition. While appreciating the success of a project we most often tend to congratulate the person delivering it directly to the client. But behind every such successful delivery, there is always a team that writes the marketing email, follows up on numerous phone calls, writes and re-writes the contract and even the person who sets up those sessions and gets the invoice cleared. As leaders, it’s most important to look out for everyone’s contributions. Equity comes in many forms and practices.
In this series, I will try to highlight different values and deliberate practices that have led to Serein’s growth and the building of a collaborative, no-ego culture.