Building Team Capability

Very short summaries of my conversations with startup Founders about Building Capability in their teams. This page is an archive of past summaries, which are shared with a closed group of Founders, once a week, through Whatsapp.


#1/ 1 Oct 2021

How can I create a learning culture so I don’t have to constantly push people to learn?

Make each team manager responsible for both hiring & training his own direct reports.

Soon, managers will start to connect the dots…”Team performance depends on team capability, which needs training… and it’s my job to arrange that”. Then, they will do what is needed.
The old centralised / HR-driven model allows line managers to disown responsibility / shift blame ; it also doesn’t scale well.


#2/ 8 Oct 2021

Outbound Facilitators, Motivational speakers, Coaches and Classroom Trainers… all claim to produce results. Which one really works?

People promote the methodology which they specialise in (quite similar to the medical field!)

From a consumer’s POV, what really works is this: Method must match the expected outcome. For example, you could want increased awareness. Or change of habits. Or new skills. The matching program will look very different in each case.

Here is a more elaborate answer to the same question:



#3/ 15 Oct 2021

Is it a good idea to have a 2-day team outing in Goa, and insert a half-day learning module in it?

If the motive is “more bang for the buck”, it doesn’t work… you get neither enough fun nor effective learning. This happens because people approach Picnics and Learning Programs with very different mindsets.

If the motive is to make Learning more engaging, that can be done via good program design. Think activities, hackathons, interactive formats, simulations etc. It doesn’t have to be clubbed with an fun outing.


#4/ 22 Oct 2021

Should I have our managers double up as trainers? Or should I hire external/professional trainers?

For your core team, choose external trainers. They will bring in fresh perspectives and the expertise which probably isn’t found anywhere in your team yet.

But for the rest of the staff, internal managers are the best trainers. More than outside perspective, staff need to know tried-n-tested ways of working, which their own managers can teach best.


#5/ 29 Oct 2021

I hired a training manager and we’re having more training programs. But I don’t see our staff’s skills improving much. Why?

A training manager is good at program logistics. But impacting learners is a different game, which involves…

  • Knowing what inputs are needed, beyond one -line descriptions
  • Designing a learning journey, right up to implementation
  • Finding out if a trainer can really deliver on promises

Further, this manager’s KPIs (like “no. of programs organised”) could also be promoting quantity over quality.


# 6/ 6 Nov 2021

Are leadership development programs for everybody? (Some of my older staff lack exposure/polish/educational qualifications)

As long as someone heads a team, their qualifications don’t matter. Instead, the trainer’s / coach’s ability matters more.

This ability has many aspects: Knowing the native language, awareness of the learner’s context, spending adequate time to understand and solve the learner’s problem, respecting the learner’s need instead of force-fitting the trainer’s own ideas.

Too often, the trainer’s inability is misinterpreted as learner’s unsuitability.


#7/ 13 Nov 2021

How do I convince my team to attend a leadership development program?

As a principle, it is not worth investing in someone’s development unless they are open to learning.

So, start by enrolling the open-minded people first and letting the results show (visibly improved performance). And then, consider it a bonus if the closed-minded people get inspired when they see this, and opt-in to the program.


#8/ 19 Nov 2021

To develop abilities of my leadership team, I tried several things… offered encouragement, training workshops, gave them motivational book. But there is no sustained change. Why?

People in your team are at various stages of the change journey. At each stage, a different input is appropriate to move them forward.

Learning Journey

An input helps only those, for whom it is appropriate. And it is irrelevant for people at other stages.

And unless you have lined up the next appropriate input, people get stuck again… they won’t move any further.

That’s why sporadic efforts to develop people produce un-sustained results.


#9/ 26 Nov 2021

I want my 7 member core team to go through a leadership development program. Should I enroll everybody together or stagger them?

Staggering is better because it reduces risk. Those who enroll later can learn do’s and don’ts from the early ones. Some examples of such transmitted lessons:

“I was irregular with my weekly meets with the coach, and lost momentum. So whatever you do, don’t postpone sessions”

“I tried to implement too many things at once, and spread myself too thin. You should focus on just 1 or 2 changes.”

Besides staggering spreads out cash flow too.


#10/ 10 Dec 2021

Me: Do you think people transform? How?

Founder: I once had a colleague who was a great performer but used to rub people the wrong way. I saw him transform into a wonderful leader of people after he worked closely with another manager who was known as a ” great people-person”.

So, the key was exposure to an alternative style, up close, and over a longish time.




Image Credit: Photo by Cody Engel on Unsplash