One of the questions we always ask our guests on the podcast involves how they turn a group of individuals into a high-performing team whose members share more than a business card with the same logo. We asked Infosys Consulting CEO Andrew Duncan the question and his answer was game-changing, a lesson any leader would do well to remember.
“When you look at dysfunctional teams, you begin to wonder what each of the members really knows about the others,” he said. “The answer is usually, ‘Not very much.’ I’m talking about knowing something about your teammates beyond their roles on the team. And when you look at highly functioning teams, you see people who know one another on a deeper level. They know what makes their teammates happy. What makes them sad. What makes them tick. And what motivates them.”
Duncan has helped a lot of individuals become teams in his more than 25 years in the consulting realm, where his clients have included Amazon, Google and Microsoft and has received international acclaim as a leading figure in his world from Consulting Magazine in 2022. In the podcast, Duncan explains that high-performing teams don’t materialize magically just because you happen to have the right talent. It falls to the leader to create the conditions and expectations that will help others come together in trust.
One way he does this is through leading by example rather than pulling rank. “For me, it’s very important to never ask someone on your team to do something you’re not prepared to do yourself,” he noted. Once, while leading a team working with a client in Memphis, Tennessee, Duncan volunteered to be the one who pulled an all-nighter to test a critical system. The next morning, when his team and their client asked whether the system worked, Duncan replied, “Of course it works. I tested it.”
The point of leading by example isn’t to be better liked by your team, says Duncan, but rather to build trust within your team. It also removes an artificial barrier – namely, rank – that can prevent leaders and their teams from getting to know each other better. Duncan says you may have to walk a fine line, but “start by building greater trust, and then raise or lower the bar on expectations, and delegate based on what you see.”
Listeners to the podcast will enjoy a “consultant’s eye view” of Duncan’s team-building expertise, including:
- Why humility is a leader’s most potent leadership trait.
- Knowing when to talk and when to listen – and why it matters.
- How leaders can overcome their fear of trusting their team.
Duncan says one of his greatest sources of professional pride comes from leading people to do something that they didn’t think they could do before they started the journey with him. “For me, the measure of success is seeing people at the end of a project say, ‘Wow, I had no idea I could do that!’ That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”