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Case Study of Team Vital Signs

Background

Comp4Auto Pvt. Ltd. is a small company, established in 2010, engaged in the manufacture of components for the Auto Industry. In this short period, with a lot of innovation they have made in roads into the market of older and larger competitors. The company’s products have been approved and is a registered tier one supplier to all the Auto manufacturers of the country.Despite a recession in the Auto Industry, Comp4Auto is flush with orders and have taken steps to triple it’s capacity.

Mr. Mayank Widgetwala, the Managing Director, wanted me to help him assess his top management’s ability to handle a company thrice the present size. Subsequently I visited the plant. I was impressed by their people practices. Mr. Widgetwala spoke about his incentive systems and his stress on the transparency. I also had an opportunity to meet his top management.

Team Vital Signs Survey

Mr. Widgetwala accepted my proposal to administer a Six Seconds Team Vital Signs (TVS) Assessment for the two top layers of management. The TVS is part of an integrated suite that also includes leadership and organisation-wide assessments.Out of thirteen executives selected, eleven completed the questionnaire. The result, in part was as expected but was also an eye opener.

TVS Report

The Engagement level of the team was high, 45%, as compared to Gallup’s 9% average for Indian Companies and 19% in developed world countries. Ability and willingness to change was seen in the TVS data and evident from the fact that success so far was the result of innovation and the encouragement of new ideas. However, Trust was relatively low although slightly above international norm and achieving results was a definite concern. The highest score, sustainability, defined as creating enduring value over time, spoke to the commitment of team members. Agility, as the second highest score, testified to the team’s nimbleness in responding to new opportunities.

The first debrief of the report was with Mr. Widgetwala, after which he agreed to a team debrief. The feedback which, under normal circumstances would not have been received, was very valuable. This is where some additional challenges were revealed. The two comments which one saw repeatedly were “lack of useful feedback” and “high pressure of work”. The presence of fear and a high level stress emerged very strongly at this debrief session. Following the debrief session with the team, we designed an intervention based on the TVS findings and the feedback we received.

Intervention

It was agreed that 3 top executives would receive individual coaching.  Mr Widgetwala refers to them as his three pillars. However, the coaching intervention would have to be much later, after the new machines, to increase capacity were commissioned. In the meantime, they accepted my suggestion to conduct two workshops on emotional intelligence and trust. These were done one month apart. The purpose of these workshops was to create a deeper awareness of toxic behaviour and of the key element, trust, in the climate within the team.

Change Initiatives

The company used the new learnings to initiate change to improve the Climate within the team, consequently, in the whole organisation. Agility and optimism being a strong components of their organisational DNA brought rich dividends. Some very important initiatives were:

  • In order to focus of trust and results the level 2 & 3 Employees were invited to strategy meetings. Here they were encouraged to be involved in discussion and, often, in decision making.
  • Moving away from the practice of only Level 1 Executives present the monthly ‘Business Operating Systems’ reports, their sub-ordinates were involved in the presentation.This made them feel relevant for the success of the company.
  • At monthly employee meetings besides receiving feedbacks and complaints, a presentation of the current market status/scenario was made. At these meetings Level 2 & 3 Employees were encouraged to present their improvement plans.

Highlighting Stories:

Many wonderful stories emerged during the intervention. Here are three examples that capture the level of insight and reflection shown:

Head of Marketing & Projects: ” Meeting customer schedule was a problem for a long time. This caused me a lot of stress as it had consistent failures. It was effecting my credibility with my customers. After the three lectures I started looking at the problems which awaited me at work as an opportunity to find solutions. Fear was replaced with courage to come clean with my customers. I confessed to them that we had failed with giving adequate explanation and I said that I needed their support to find a solution.Surprisingly I found a lot trust in return. We became partners in discovering solutions. So I no more look at problems, which always be there, as stressful”

Production Manager: ” We have always been under tremendous pressure of meeting delivery commitments. That is even true today. Earlier, however, there was no cooperation among my people nor between various functions in the organisation. The stress level had reached a state of panic. Nobody trusted anybody. Meetings ended in heated arguments and blaming one another, further hampering execution. After the three lectures there was a change in the mindset of everyone. There was more team work, co-operation, sharing of responsibilities. This resulted in greater trust and better constructive feedback. Delivery pressures remained, but there was no panic. I used to be on call 24/7 and now was able to took off on a holiday for 5 days with my family.”

Purchase Manager: ” I have always been under heavy stress, which caused health issues. I worked long hours, mostly spent in heated arguments. However, after the second lecture I identified one negative behaviour and slowly started to change it. After the third talk I started changing my conversations by ‘Listening to Connect’. I am handling stress much better and at home are slowly things are improving as I give more time”.

Results:

Positive outcoes were seen througout the company as a result of the intervention. Among the most significant are:

  • Authentic, Level III conversations, in an environment of trust, started occurring between team members. There was more of Asking and Listening in place of Ordering and Controlling. This resulted in co-creation and partnership in resolving day-to-day issues.
  • Fear is replaced by Trust resulting in useful feedback.
  • There has been a of 30% in the top line performance without adding capacity.
  • Managers achieved an 80% reduction in cost of Air freighting material to meet the ‘just-in-time’ requirements of their customers
  • Now, there are no complaints from customers and suppliers that reach the managing director; the appropriate people are now skill fully handling handling issues that arise.

While more work remains to be done, great progress has been made to improve the climate in the company. This revitalized atmosphere has set the stage for sustained and deliberate attention to relationships at all levels, openness to dialogue and participation, and transparency in dealing with customers. These changes, prompted by education and discussion about emotional and conversational intelligence, have also contributed to positive financial results. The future is bright for this young, innovative, and agile company.

 

(names changed for purpose of confidentiality)

One Response to Case Study of Team Vital Signs

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