There is nothing an organisation can’t accomplish if the entire team is rowing in the same direction. Getting everyone to row in the same direction is what separates an ordinary team from an Ace team. Building an ace team, however is incredibly, incredibly tough!

Recently, I got a crash course in building an ace team from our South Karnataka team.
One of the monthly rhythms we have at Vaatsalya is the formal review with the zonal teams where all the zonal heads present the updates for their zone. This month, we did two things different. We asked the management team to present our plans and updates to the zonal teams. Second, we asked all the hospital heads, who report to the zonal heads to attend. The 8 hours we spent with them gave me very powerful insights into building an Ace team. Particularly, Anand who leads our Operations along with his team really demonstrated by example how to nail this down.
It all boils down to TEAM: Trust in the leader/team, Expectations Clarity, Ambitious goals and Missionary zeal
And the role of the leader is to ACE it: Hold the team Accountable, Communicate frequently and Empower the team
The team clearly and without hesitation trusts Anand. And is sure of his support when they need it. In case of crisis he shows up and stands beside them. Trust is also reinforced when you get the freedom to fail. One of the initiatives that the team had planned bombed, but he was appreciative of the effort and he let his team mate tryout another experiment. This sends a very strong message of trust and not focus on short term setbacks.
?For each hospital there was a clear plan of action tied to the goals and it was executed despite challenges or hiccups. Many experiments failed or did not give desired results but the expectations were clear that they will focus on executing those plans. Each plan of action was also tagged to expected outcome and the outcomes were brutally and honestly discussed and experiences shared. These expectations were repeated frequently during their monthly meets and individual interactions.
?Even though some hospitals exceeded their targets for the last two months, no one was taking it easy, they had set ambitious goals for themselves with stretch targets. One of the characteristics that I look for when hiring is hunger. Hunger to prove themselves, hunger to stretch, hunger to not hesitate from taking up a challenge. And that hunger is evident when people challenge the norm or the existing target.
Many of the team members are young, for many its a first or second job. The people they deal with are much older and experienced, particularly doctors and other staff. But the team is consumed by their goals. A missionary zeal to do whatever it takes to get to accomplish your mission. But the zeal is grounded in values. At Vaatsalya we have a very high value on integrity and we routinely pay a price for sticking to our principles. In the past, we have lost business to others as we are unwilling to compromise on our principles. We continue to say, lets not cut any corners or compromise our values at any point, even if it means it will take us longer to succeed. In the review, not one of them said let’s be flexible. To the contrary, they said, lets wait. It might take time but we will be ethical. Even if it means we don’t meet this target. In the long run, we will come out winners. This is the missionary zeal that will be hard to beat, any day by any one else.
Most important learning. ACE-ing it. Done gently but firmly by Anand.
Holding the team accountable. For their actions and results. He has had to have difficult conversations when things were not going well, but he did it with tact and firmness.
Communicate to the verge of over communicate. Whether through phone calls, personal visits or through group meetings, Anand was sharing the issues with the team, asking them to recommend changes and own to fix things where they are broken. And clarifying expectations again and again.
Empower to make and own decisions and failures. Empowerment is also encouraging the team to challenge assumptions or the way things are done here mentality.
So there we have it. Simple but effective. An ACE TEAM. A team which stands together, rows in the same direction, and is ready to build a great organisation. And it gives me hope and confidence about Vaatsalya for many many years to come.
Thank you Anand. And the SK tea