Leaders voice author Bala Girisaballa

Bala Girisaballa

How to build, lead and coach high-performance teams

“You are good at this, why don’t you consider a career as an airforce pilot”
I still remember those words. During a school exhibition there were many stalls, and in one of the stalls, they had this game where you press a button on a remote controlled toy plane which drops a bomb on a target. I was in high school at that time and was just then learning motion, kinetic energy, parabolic trajectory etc. So I was able to bomb all the targets pretty easily. And the person in that stall made that compliment. 

I don’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday and I don’t remember a lot of my growing up years, but I still remember those words. I never thought I was good at anything until that point, but that comment is one of the reasons physics is still my favorite subject. I didn’t become an airforce pilot, but it changed how I looked at my own ability.

Image from Sportstar

“..you are superior in strength, wisdom, brilliance and valor to all beings. Why do you not realize your own strength?”
बलं बुद्धिश्च तेजश्च सत्त्वं च हरिपुङ्गव।
विशिष्टं सर्वभूतेषु किमात्मानं न बुध्यसे।।4.66.7।।

- Valmiki Ramanaya – Kishkinda Kanda – 66th sarga – 7th verse

Jambawan, the wise, elderly king of bears exhorts Hanuman not to self-doubt his own ability. The story goes like this (in brief). Rama is in a bind – there’s no one who can cross the sea to go check on Sita. At this moment, Jambawan reminds Hanuman about his super-natural ability that he has forgotten about. Until this point, Hanuman wasn’t aware of his own powers.

This is one of my favorite stories from Ramayana. It has deep meaning which has guided me throughout my life. We all have blindspots. We all have self-doubts. We can’t see our own abilities. I have navigated through-out my life being guided by people who saw more in me than I did myself.

And that is the essence of mentorship. Of coaching. Of leading.

We often think it’s about having the answers. No. It’s more about helping people discover themselves. Finding their own strengths. 

I wouldn’t have remembered a thing if someone just taught me how to do it. But all my inspirations are from people who turned on a spotlight inside of me.

Performance is that kind of a thing. Well, you can teach techniques that can help in marginal improvements for a while, but true performance comes from changing the game. True performance comes not from “doing” the techniques, but “being” a high performer.  And that requires individuals to “become” their potential . You can’t do the thinking for them.

So, as a leader, how can you build, lead and coach high performance teams?

Three things.

  1. Show them the true north star that your entire team can see and get inspired by. Point them to the summit. Show what best looks like.
  2. Shine a spotlight on their potential. Help them discover their true ability and “being” who they truly are.
  3. Shut up and get out of their way. Don’t become a crutch to them. There will be instances where you will be tempted to step in. Avoid. It’s not about you.

If I were to apply this in our Hanuman story, finding Sita was the north star, Jambawan helped Hanuman discover his own ability to cross the sea, and no one told him how to jump. Jambawan was able and wise and could have done it himself, but he got out of the way. Hanuman had to face many hurdles along the way, and he figured out himself.

Transformative outcomes are a result of “being”, not just “doing”!

Leaders voice author Bala Girisaballa

Bala Girisaballa

MD, at Vista Equity Partners

Author Spotlight

Bala Girisaballa​ is an experienced global leader in technology & business. An entrepreneur and an author himself, he has founded three startups and is an advisor to many startups and venture funds. He is currently the Managing Director, at Vista Equity Partners, one of the world’s top private equity firms. Previously, he was the President of Techstars India – the world’s leading platform for startups & innovation. He also held leadership roles at Yahoo, Oracle, etc,.
Bala has a MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and a B.Tech from Osmania University. He keynotes at events on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, business disruption, innovation, and building startups. He has contributed chapters in the books “Wiley’s Black Book Enterprise 4.0” and “Do More Faster” India edition. He also talks about Indian History & Culture on his YouTube channel.

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