In one of the workshops that we conducted for the Finance and Accounts team at L&T Valves, we did an interesting exercise. We divided the participants into groups of 3 and handed each group a jigsaw puzzle box. Each of the groups had all the freedom to communicate and strategize so as to solve the puzzle within the stipulated time. When the timer started to tick, all the teams got down to full swing action. Midway, team 3 started to lose steam while the other two teams continued with full gusto and enthusiasm. Minutes lapsed and soon, team 2 also started to fizzle out. When the clock struck the time, team 1 had not only completely solved the puzzle - in spite of all the struggles - but the team members exuded more energy than when they had started out with.
What do you think was the difference between the 3 teams? What about Team 1 was distinctly different from the other two teams?
Well, here is what we did. In the exercise, Team 1 was the only team which was given the puzzle box with the picture of the solved puzzle. They knew what they were chasing - the end result - and that picture allowed them to wade through the challenges and emerge as the winner. Teams 2 and 3 were not shown pictures of the solved puzzle. So in effect, teams 2 and 3 were working without a clue not knowing all along what they were aiming for.
You could be wondering, so what? Does that really make a difference?
It does. In any organization when teams work together, one of the critical foundations of productivity is to anchor all team members to the end outcome - the goal. In an idealistic situation, we would want to anchor that goal across visual, auditory and kinesthetic representations. A visual picture of where we want to be and what our goal is, helps in instilling clarity in the minds of every participating team member. Along with that visual picture of the goal, the voice of the CEO outlining the strategy of the business and how we intend to get there, adds the auditory element to the visual image. In addition, having team members jointly sing an anthem or allowing them to touch and experience an artefact that is representative of the future goal - like a Vision 2025 memento - helps further integration of the end goal in each team member’s mind.
The famous lines of Robert Frost reiterate the essence of goal anchoring. When one is traversing in the direction of the goal, there are bound to be plentiful distractions. However tempting those may be, if there is one aspect that will allow the individual to keep it going, it is the clarity of where he/she needs to be.
Covid-19 and the pandemic times are no different. Goal anchoring is clearly the need of the hour and along with that, resilience building.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back. But bounce back to what? To normalcy? To the erstwhile day to day routine? That doesn’t sound exciting enough. Individuals need an anchor that is worth chasing. A larger purpose, a larger goal. The goal of becoming a billion-dollar company. The goal of converting our order backlog into billable revenues. The goal of satisfying our worrying customers.
These anchors allow individuals to spring back to normalcy for they are now vested with a sense of purpose. The series of Leadership Connects that L&T hosted during the lockdown period played a critical part in the goal anchoring and resilience building process. We had several leaders right from the S N Subrahmanyan, Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director, L&T, Subramanian Sarma, Director – L&T as well Mahesh Joshi, Chief Executive, L&T Valves explaining the impact of Covid-19, the implications of the economic situation and what it meant for our business. These talks were akin to each leader walking alongside the employee as if showing them the future and at the same time guiding them with utmost patience.
So, post lockdown, employees resumed work and started to bring their work life back to the pre-Covid days. That was stage I of resilience. While actions were beginning to take shape, something else was noticed. Clearly, some things seemed different. The world around had changed. Things were not the same as before. Caution, precaution, distancing and prevention were taking predominance in all corners of an employee’s day-to-day life. In addition to the existing struggles, an individual now had one more challenge - to combat with an unknown virus and arduously attempt to circumvent it - not just for himself but for his entire family.
This needed mental strength. Resilience building was now in stage 2. L&T Valves, stepped up to curb the spread of the pandemic by running a series of awareness sessions for all the employees. Precautionary measures were taken across all the plants, cross-functional teams were formed to monitor and regulate Covid norms. And slowly normalcy started to trickle in.
And by then, the leadership team at L&T Valves, had proactively envisaged the next stage of resilience building. Chasing a goal and showing the employees what needed to be achieved was not enough. There was a missing link, and that was identified by our CFO, Sameer Godbole. There was a need to be empathetic with our team members while allowing them to take ownership of the end goal. This needed a paradigm shift - in the minds of every leadership member.
Hence sessions on ‘Empathy and Accountability’ were organized with Dr Anand Nadkarni, mental health specialist and mentor, wherein the concept of being empathetic to employees was discussed at length. Clearly there is a difference between apathy, antipathy, sympathy and empathy. Each of these has its own pros and cons but the most progressive of the emotion that takes people along with a sense of purpose and resilience is the emotion of empathy. Being able to put oneself in the shoes of the other so as to jointly identify a solution to the problem at hand - this is a much needed quality in the business world of today.
And at L&T Valves, each stone is being moved inch by inch to get closer to the end goal and in that process also take the employees along. There is both a sense of purpose and a sense of empathy going hand in hand. Resilience is now seeping in - in every move and every action - right from the top till the last layer of the organization. For without resilience, there is no strength and without the strength of the employee workforce, there can never be a history written.