5 ways CIOs can build a great team

Krishnan Nilakantan, Group CIO, Muthoot Fincorp Ltd, on how to nurture a collaborative, team-oriented environment. By Satyaki Sarkar

Serving as the CIO for Muthoot FinCorp while juggling the role of CEO of Muthoot Pappachan Technologies is no easy job. However, with over 40 years of experience in the IT industry, Krishnan Nilakantan does so with ease. Prior to starting with Muthoot FinCorp Ltd six years ago, Krishnan was working as Senior Director -CDAC, wherein he was responsible for setting up the National Centre for Cyber Forensics at CDAC, and then he worked as Director-General of Software Technology Parks of India. He also served as the Founder-Director of the Computer Emergency Response Team-Kerala (CERT-K). In this exclusive interview with Bonne Vie, Krishnan shares his learnings on how to build a successful team.

1. It starts with a vision and a goal
“Setting a goal is the first and most important step. But once that is done, a great leader constantly pushes his team to work towards that goal from the very first day. From identifying the team members and imparting training especially suited to help them achieve that goal, to mentoring and guiding them, a leader needs to make sure that his team is properly trained in all aspects of the job. The way to do is to step back, observe silently, solve problems for the team in those areas where they do not have expertise to begin with and slowly handholding them to master all aspects in order to achieve the goal. The end goal must always be kept in mind, and the team must work collectively towards the achievement of that goal from the very start.”

2. Regular evaluation of goals
“Simply setting a goal is not the end. In order to ensure its achievement, it is necessary to set a number of intermediate milestones that the team must achieve, one step at a time. Additionally, once the intermediate milestones are set, it is important to periodically hold reviews for the evaluation of team performance in meeting the milestones, as well as identify the shortcomings. It is important that the team is trained to solve these short-comings as well as help them better visualise to successfully meet future milestones.”

3. Keep them focused on the big picture
“Often while working in a high-stress, demanding industry where there is an obstacle to overcome every step of the way, it is easy to lose sight of the final, end goal. At this stage a leader must remind his team of what they are working towards. He must be able to review each and every aspect of his team, on the basis of their skills, approach, planning and execution. Most of the time it’s not as cut and dry as we’d like it to be, but it is important to look at the problems from a different angle, to understand the various issues faced, and see how you can gather information in the right way to figure out solutions. You need to guide your team on how to analyse the tools at their disposal and use them to achieve their end goal.”

4. Encourage team cohesiveness
“In a team it is extremely important for every member to be working together in tandem with the others, with a clarity on what they are trying to achieve. Holding daily 10-minute team building sessions is a great practice, as it not only helps create oneness, but it is also an excellent chance to gauge the leadership potential of the team members. When faced with a problem, the person who is the first to come up with a solution is likely to have the capacity to become a great leader. A good leader isn’t one who orders people to do as he says, but rather is one who makes others want to follow him of their own free will. In this aspect, it is extremely important for a team to have a strong connection and synchronisation within itself.”

5. Push them to challenge themselves
“When technology serves up challenging situations and difficulties, it is not the end of the road, but rather an opportunity to make a new one to reach your destination. It is never too late to develop a new skill that you previously didn’t have. The way to overcoming any obstacle, at least in the IT world, is to study and learn the technology behind it, and go ahead and implement it to find your own way out. Apart from increasing the experience and skill set of the team, it also prepares them to efficiently handle roadblocks and dead ends. The ultimate role of a leader is to not simply oversee and manage others, but also figure out solutions to tough situations, and be a problem solver. Thus, it is important for a leader to constantly push his team to keep learning and bettering themselves, no matter how brilliant or inefficient they might be.” 

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