Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Anecdote from a Team-Experience

During the first few years of Rhythmica, when I used be active in it, I came across two kinds of people -- those who wanted the best out of the programme, and those who wanted the best out of the people.

Former category people were usually very talented; set very high standards for themselves and for others; and considered a musical performance as the output of the hard work. For them, it wasn't justified to compromise on the quality of the music. Substandard performance was unpardonable. At every stage of preparation, they advocated ruthless curtailing of anything substandard.

Latter category consisted of people who gathered in the music room for fun. They would, on an average, be less musically talented. They wouldn't have much to do with the highest levels of perfection. For them, a glitch here and a glitch there was absolutely OK. They would make friends, get into romantic relations, help out the more talented ones, and sulk if neglected.

Another example exists in all organisations. There are techies and there are managers. Techies don't usually think much of the managers. And managers give a damn to that. The tussle continues, and they thrive under the same roof.

It was when I was trying to characterise my responsibilities as a convener that I realised that both these types of people are required in a team. And whether one wants it or not, both these varieties would exist in any group.

Talented people are good to realise the potential of a group. The peak potential of the group is the peak potential of these individuals. Their presence is a must to take a group to the heights of achievement. The latter group are important for the existent of a group. They aren't dead weight. They are a cement which keeps the team together. A massive structure is required for resources to come together and create something that makes a difference. Usually individual talent is not enough to realise such teams.

A leader's job is to engineer two things:
- Realisation of potential
- Repeatability

The talented ones advocate such high levels of dedication and hard work as would cause severe burnouts in the less capable ones. As individuals, they may be capable of sustaining very high standards demanding exceptional efforts. That mayn't be true with others. A talented person, in absence of essential team-related qualities in himself, will look at this incapability as a disqualification, and will castigate anyone who doesn't concur. Often, this may create conflicts, not just with less capable people, but also with comparably capable people. Everyone is not at their best all the time. Being caught in the weak moment, and being reprimanded by a peer, who isn't necessarily more talented, for not meeting standards may sometimes be unacceptable to them, especially if they are inwardly rather confident that they do maintain high standards. Due to this reason, it is often seen that groups consisting of extremely talented people don't always do well, especially when it comes to durability. Music bands, research groups, etc. often form and fall apart in no time. I guess, the reason behind it could be the lack of team-related talents in its members.

A team will sustain when most of its members are happy, not just with themselves but with each other. They will come together again and again when they feel like meeting each other. A team will make its mark not just by one momentous performance, but by continuing to do so over and over again. A minimal prerequisite for that is the existence of the team.

An individual talent may look at this scenario as a parasitic relation between the less talented and the more talented. That's not justified. A team forms a critical mass for resources to come together and contribute towards the creation of something non-trivial. Such teams don't merely feed on the talents of the individuals, but gives them back a lot. The most important payback is the society of talents.
A society that's formed in an orderly fashion, and not by chance meeting between two maverick geniuses. When collaboration between such two geniuses is good, not just for others, but for themselves too, the presence of a happy group around them supports such an association, even when such an association mayn't be pleasant to the two geniuses themselves.

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