Today, Wednesdays for Women kicks off an occasional series titled “Lessons from Leaders,” featuring learnings from JDA leaders on topics of interest to anyone seeking insights and experiences that can help them grow their own leadership skills. In today’s blog, Sowmya Ananthachary, a Project Director in JDA’s Product Development team, and member of the JDA Winning Leadership program, shares what she learned about motivation, engagement and building effective teams.
Motivating and engaging your team is important and requires a lot of focus and attention. It is challenging to sustain that motivation especially in a time of rapid change. When employees are motivated, engagement improves, and they are productive. JDA is on a journey like never before, with a vision to achieve the moonshot of the autonomous supply chain. To successfully deliver on this vision, we need to engage all associates and build highly motivated and effective teams. I had the opportunity to talk to Paula Natoli, Group Vice President in Product Management to get her perspective on what leaders can do to develop high performing teams. Paula has been at JDA since 1996, starting as an intern and working her way through several departments including Consulting, Education Services, Development and PMG. With years of rich experience across many parts of JDA, Paula was able to share some wonderful insights on how to motivate, engage and build effective teams. Following are eight keys to success that she shared with me:
Throughout my career, I have cultivated a level of empathy for other departments across JDA. For example, when multiple teams are engaged in addressing a customer service issue and when we hit a rough patch, it can be hard to put ourselves in the other team’s shoes as we problem solve, even when we’re all working toward a common goal. I’ve worked in consulting and I’ve worked in product development, so it is easier for me to understand each team’s unique position, challenges and concerns. My journey has helped me have empathy and understand others, resulting in better decisions and collaboration.
Passion begets motivation
There are two things that are very important for motivation. The first is passion. Passion is infectious, and I look for that in leaders. You need to have a level of passion yourself. It exudes in all conversations you have with anyone, whether it is a town hall or a one-on-one and people can feel it. If I don’t have a level of passion as a leader with what we are doing at JDA and the opportunities that we have, I don’t know how I can expect my team to be motivated.
The second thing that motivates everyone is the inherent feeling of wanting to succeed and win. Everybody wants to feel that they are contributing something of value. I try to grow, develop and give opportunities to my team members. Then they can develop their own level of passion and run with it. I don’t micro-manage people, but I coach and mentor.
Have a solid vision
Leaders need to have a solid vision for the entire company to rally behind it. As an example, Girish set out our moonshot of the Autonomous Supply Chain and we can all align to it. When my team members ask me how to prioritize all these product requests that come our way, I tell them to look at our vision and moonshot and align based on that. It feels like such a simplistic thing, but it really does set a tone. Vision sets the direction and tone as people need something to align on and something to get behind.
An effective team is built on drive and determination
Passion plays a role here too. People with passion will think outside the box and will not wait to be told what to do. They will come up with new ideas and will find ways to make things happen. That’s the sign of a high performing team. They are looking for the next level of opportunity. They have the passion for wanting to succeed personally and for the company.
To build such a team, it is critically important to find the right balance of work, teamwork and team-building. For passionate, effective teams, it is not just about what you can deliver to the market and customers, but also that you are doing it with a team you are proud of.
Associate development takes time and tenacity
If a leader doesn’t spend enough time with their associates to align them on a growth plan, they can lose motivation. It’s important to make time to mentor them for growth. Associates need to be able to see not only where the company is going but also where they are going in order to be motivated. As leaders, we need to make sure that we are investing in our number one resource which is people.
Conversely, the onus is on the associate to show tenacity. They need to go after what they want and raise their hand and express their idea. They should not wait for things to be given to them. Even high performers should not wait for opportunities to be given to them.
When it comes to leadership and opportunity, don’t be afraid of change. As a leader, your role changes and evolves over time. Many high performers take on leadership roles after being an expert in an area that is in their comfort zone. But as you grow in leadership outside of an individual contributor role, you have to take on different things that require new skillsets. As a leader, you should not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Skills learned through prior experience can be translated to a new opportunity.
Being part of a success story
Nothing motivates me more than seeing our customers succeed. Every time there is a customer go-live or a new customer that is added, there is a level of satisfaction in seeing the true business results and know that you have contributed to it. That is very gratifying and motivating.
I got a lot out of the discussion with Paula and have been thinking about what I can do to motivate and engage my teams. I believe that we can all take away something from here and apply it to our teams. Now that you have heard Paula’s answers to these questions, what are your thoughts about motivating and engaging your teams? What else can you do to create highly effective teams that will deliver on your company’s promise?