By Mr. Koushik Krishnan, Regional Manager, accounting & control, A-PAC, Tetra Pak
Mentoring – building great teams to manage the madness
I handle a somewhat large role in a somewhat large organisation. My work spans 6 time-zones, 9 markets and a billion euro in turnover.
Last week, I got laid up with a slip disc. With Q3 close and the budget season in full swing, this was not exactly the best time to be laid up. So, here I was, trying to juggle decision making, tactical overseeing, putting out team fights, participate in corporate future gazing, get the team ready for an upcoming audit, and the list goes on. And also, squeeze some time for rest and therapy when the body gave way.
And when I was resting, I realised my company hadn’t shut down just because I wasn’t around and I would shut down if I kept up this madness.
This brought home two very vital truths. One, work is getting more and more complex and a person in a leadership role; be it finance, marketing or production, just can’t pull the cart alone. Second, teams today are more willing to pick up the ball and start running, when the captain gets injured and is not giving a 100%.
It is in this context that it becomes not just important, but also necessary to have strong teams in place who deliver superior performance in a consistent manner.
Finance & Accounting (F&A) has changed beyond recognition in the last twenty years. A slew of local and international accounting standards, each competing with the other in complexity have been promulgated. Every economic legislation comes with a compendium of rules and procedures with grave warnings that more changes are imminent. Businesses are venturing into new markets, new areas, new arrangements which bring in their share of complexity. If all this was not enough, the people we work with – shareholders, customers, vendors, employees, banks, regulatory authorities, are smarter, better informed and more demanding.
I have never seen a stronger case for change, a stronger need to empower our F&A teams.
We need a F&A team that has subject matter expertise, speed in implementing decisions, can run along-with the business and provide solutions even before they become issues. They need to do this day in and day out on a sustainable basis. And all along, they need to be assured that they are well rewarded in managing this madness.
How to find, mould and retain such a team should be in the front and center of any CFOs agenda. If it isn’t there, then he is probably in jail or making some very tough presentations to the board, or plain out of job.
Now, the unfortunate thing about mentoring or building world class competent teams is that, organisations have basically made this whole process so crappy, full of nonsensical mumbo jumbo, that most realists wrinkle their nose when you talk about mentoring, coaching. I don’t blame them. When you make a group of sensible middle managers stand on a blanket in the hot sun and another group try and yank it from under them, all the while trying to get them to see a lesson on teamwork, I would run a mile away too. Neither do you need complex performance management forms, nor fancy workshops to be a good mentor.
Building and sustaining world class teams is all about loving your team. When I say love, I mean complete, genuine, deep love. It goes beyond taking them out for lunch once a month and saying you care for them. It is that love, which will lead you; to listen to their problems without thinking “he is such a moron”, recognise what guy in your team likes or is good at and assign him work accordingly, give them all an equal opportunity to grow without feeling insecure that they may shortly leave your team and go someplace else to one day build great teams themselves.
It is amazing how you can practice this love without being mawkish or academic. This is a laundry list of things you could do:
- Sign up as a team for webinars run by the big 4 accounting teams on emerging issues in finance
- Encourage your team to have lunch with marketing guys once a while, to understand which customers/ products/ markets are growing and why
- Show them it is safe to challenge anyone, including you, if it means better quality of reporting, accounting, compliance
- Challenge them to pick one person in the team they cannot stand (could be yourself) and learn to develop a working relationship
All this sounds familiar? Of course it does! This is exactly what you would do with your kids, right? And don’t you feel happy when they grow up, succeed and start driving the car while you sit behind and enjoy the view?