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9 Ways CIOs can be better team leaders

Mrinal Chatterjee, Director Technology, Amazon Payments, discusses the elements you need to consider when building a successful, long-lasting team. By Pooja Paryani

A technology leader and entrepreneur, Mrinal Chatterjee has been delivering product and technology for over 24 years, with 18 of these years spent in Silicon Valley. In this time, he has co-founded startups and built strong teams with an eye on execution, organisational efficiency and long-term strategy. He enjoys building a culture and work environment that is goal driven, which empowers and rewards individuals for accomplishing impossible tasks. Currently he is the Director of Technology leading payments technology at Amazon. Mrinal tells us how CIOs can be better leaders and build a strong team.

1. Change how you view the candidate from Day 1
“Remember every candidate who interacts with you is a potential customer of your product and services, at times they are even influencers among their circle. Once one of my managers told me that we should make sure that every candidate, whether he gets the job or not, should leave feeling it is a great company to work for. For instance, in India is not uncommon for candidates to ask: “What is the CTC for this position?” I always respond that our employees are true company assets and not cost to company (CTC). I am happy to talk about your compensation package but we do not have CTC. One simple thing like this changes the candidates’ perspective of the company and they want to know more about the company and culture. This was especially instrumental in attracting and retaining top talent during my startup days.”

2. Make employees walk in the customer’s shoes
“It is critical that we have a close connect with what our customers are saying and expecting. I have always told my teams that if you do not know your customer then you will not be building the right product. For instance, if you are building payments solutions, then understand what a customer goes through when his/her payment is deducted from the credit card but he/she does not receive an order confirmation. The customer becomes anxious and s/he agitatedly calls customer care. How would you develop your product and solution so that the customer is given the assurance that either the order confirmation with come through or his payment will be refunded? You need to look at this situation as an opportunity for earning customer trust. This helps them bring the customer connect to whatever product they are working/developing.”

3. Establish a sense of ownership among team members
“I always tell candidates not to ask what work they will get to do. I tell them to ask ‘What problems we are solving?’. A job is not fun but a sense of purpose and a mission delivers lot more to an employee than a mere job. I ask them to think and operate like a leader in whatever activity they do so that it gives them a sense of ownership, and they do it with more enthusiasm and passion. All of the sudden the employee starts feeling like leading the mission and operate like a leader of the space. When the job is done, there’s a feeling of achievement for having accomplished the tasks. So it is up to us how we can keep them motivated. There is always an opportunity to raise the bar in terms of employee satisfaction in the company.”

4. Try to pre-empt problems
“To solve problem is our first duty. But I tell my team to also look out for the root cause. For example, we solve payment related issues, so I want to make the payments system very smooth and easy. When a customer calls, I ask the team to check why they had to call us at first place. What could we have done in advance so that they didn’t have to call us? If we get several calls regarding the same issue I ask them what we could have informed the customers in advance so they didn’t have to call us. I am very open to suggestions and new ideas and insist on thinking out of the box. This helps both, the customer and employee experience. The idea is to innovate in the product for the customer and automate whatever is routine work so that it allows the organisation to scale and lets everyone including customer support not be forced to do repeated mundane tasks.”

5. Remember job satisfaction is what employees are looking for
“Throughout my career I have seen employees seek job satisfaction. This is true even for me now and when I was an individual contributor. When employees are not satisfied with their job they tend to focus on things like salary hike, perks, etc. I am not saying salary and other perks are not important. When employee is satisfied with his role and task at hand, you have a happy employee and salary and perks become secondary topics for the employee. A sense of purpose and accomplishment is something employees take back home every day, whereas salary happens once a month. If you are able to align your employees’ passion to what the organisation needs to deliver, you have created a unstoppable force. Give them a mission. Don’t be a manager, be a leader; share the problem and let them drive the solution. They will be more involved this way. You have to make this investment in your employees. There is a saying I believe in: ‘Give somebody a fish you will feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you have fed him for life’.”

6. Do what you enjoy
“If you are working in an organisation and the work doesn’t interest you, shift to a different department. If you do not find a suitable department search for another organisation but do not continue with what you do not enjoy. Fortunately, I had great managers, mentors and colleagues during my career and learnt great lessons from them. I was always given work ownership; that is the reason I could deliver better. A leader should be transparent with employees so they know what is expected from them. Push employees to go beyond their limits and they will turn out to be great leaders. Allow employees to stretch themselves and to make mistakes. They will last for a longer period of time in the organisation.”

7. Think like an entrepreneur
“Your goal should be to be an entrepreneur. Take bold decisions. When the whole world is saying it won’t work, the entrepreneur still stands for his conviction. An entrepreneur’s job is to bring in innovation, so that’s what you should do. You don’t need to start your own company; you can be an entrepreneur even in your organisation.”

8. Ask for the goals and not the money
“When a company is offering you job, yes money is important but you should be asking what is your bigger mission and what your goals will be. Because once you are aware of the mission and you align yourself to it you will be driven towards them and the output will be better than expected. If you join only because of the money being offered you won’t be passionate about the work. Don’t follow success, work with your heart and success shall follow.”

9. Don’t shy away from failure
“If you not going to fail you cannot learn. Unless you try you won’t be able to know about your skills and limits. So do not shy away from trying. My managers in the past always pushed me to take risks, now I do the same to my team.”

Categories:   Lifestyle, Work Buzz

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