Ask Shailesh

Q. Hi! I head an Indian FMCG organization, and in an industry where competition is becoming stiffer by the day, it’s difficult to make steady progress. Adding to the difficulty is the demotivation & lack of drive among the team members due to not being a top team. How should one manage in such a scenario?

A. Great question. Frankly, there are no easy answers to your query. However, there are some learnings from cricket that could be pertinent & useful. As a product category that is common, how do you stand out? Specially, when “me too”, stronger/wealthier/cheaper brands can beat you not just in media, but in distribution, as well as at retail store presence. Despite all of that, you can still win the battle – with your team.

Let’s see what Rajasthan Royals did in IPL Inaugural edition. They weren’t the strongest team. Apart from Shane Warne, they had no star players to boast of. And most definitely, they didn’t match the spends of other teams in promoting themselves. They were, clearly, not even in the remotest contention for being victors. But one man and his ambition & strategy changed that all, and they emerged as champions.

Shane Warne focused on each team member’s strengths, and motivated them individually to deliver their best, without caring for the outcome. He gave his team the confidence to take their own decisions, good or bad, without any fear about whether their place was secure in the side. He identified other leaders for their various skills (like fielding, batting), and delegated coaching of those core tasks to them, so as to empower them, give them more focus & confidence, and at the same time free himself to focus on other important aspects.

Also, he strongly believed in team spirit and team building at all costs. If you scored a duck, no problem; that does not take away the good batsman in you who will come good next inning. If you dropped a catch, no problem; after all, you’re not all that bad in the field and will make up next time. If you went for too many in an over, no problem; get some rest, focus and come back to claim your turf, the good bowler that you normally are. All good things the team members did, they always got all the credit for it from their captain; all things that went bad, Warne took responsibility for those as the captain & coach. All towards building a team of believers, who would go out and outdo their own capability for their team and their captain.

I am sure you also have some winners in your team. You have to identify those, and focus on them, and give them the freedom to take strong decisions, with a focus on winning the game at least in their own battleground, if not nationally. Work with them in analyzing the territories/channels they must focus on, or on regional/consumer strategies that can help you create a difference and achieve your targets. And empower them fully with all the support they need, backing them to the hilt. You will win some, you will lose some. But what you would have built is a confident team that will set its own benchmarks, and do everything to achieve them. Slowly, you will see that others will start raising their hands to be counted.