Aligning High Performing Teams

Amit Kaul

Head of Platform at Plaid



"A few years ago, when I took over responsibility for one of ThoughtWorks' regional business units, I was challenged with having to bring together a management team of cross-functional leaders with different areas of specialization and varying levels of experience. The management team was comprised of 8 senior leaders, managing an overall business of 120 technologists. I needed to quickly move through the forming and storming phases of team development and get to the 'high-performing' part. This required creating clarity of team objectives, individual goals, and a shared understanding of how to work together in an efficient way."

Actions taken

"I started by facilitating the team to a clear articulation of the business goals, which drove the core objectives for the team. We identified key objectives, success criteria for each objective, and an action plan to achieve the success criteria."

"Once that framework was in place, I was able to work with each team member individually to identify how their experiences, strengths, and passions could help the team achieve the overall business objectives. For each team member we identified key focus areas, the business objectives for which they were responsible, and a set of personal success criteria. Additionally, we defined three areas of personal improvement they wanted to work on and three people on their teams to which they could delegate tasks and get leverage as a leader."

"Once this process was complete, we documented all of the items above in a Role Clarity and Alignment document. We shared all of these documents with each other in our next team meeting. Each leader was able to walk through his/her objectives with the team, driving alignment and accountability. This gave the entire team a shared understanding of what each person was there to do and how it contributed to our overall business goals."

Lessons learned

"It's important to have a shared understanding of the team's goals and identify clear success criteria for those goals. This creates the framework for team success and you can then draw clear lines to individual responsibility. With this in place, the team members can hold each other accountable."

"Many new leaders attempt to take on too much by themselves. A successful engineering manager is adept at getting leverage from their peers, team members, and processes."

"Finally, don't forget to be vulnerable. Vulnerability builds trust. Trust leads to collaboration. Collaboration leads to shared responsibility and accountability. Set the tone as the team leader."

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Amit Kaul

Head of Platform at Plaid

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership Training

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