What makes a great team? People, Purpose and Problems! If there wasn’t a great problem to solve we would perhaps never witness real ingenuity. Here’s a true account of how a series of problems brought out the best in us.
This blog post is a true account of a journey I took with two of my colleagues (Amit & Prem) from Bangalore to Baroda via Bombay. The normally 4-hour journey by flight took us 30 hours to complete thanks to unpredictable weather conditions! This piece is about what transpired in that journey and our learning from it
Episode 1 – The Flight to Lala Land!
Teams Are All About Natural Leadership: Although we had a foreboding of delay to the flight, the three of us took a plunge of faith and decided to proceed with our journey….After all, how bad can it get ?(turns out that we were to experience Murphy’s magical law every step of the way), Amit had plans of reading a book, Prem wanted to catch up on sleep and I had my e-books for company for which I had been charging my phone with a hawks eye at the airport. Few minutes after we sit down, the pilot announces that we must deplane and all of us lung to the narrow airplane lanes to form an orderly queue.
There is no information, no system, no answers and many passengers decide to chuck the travel and cancel their tickets (I wonder how our modern lives have succumbed to instant gratification, uncertainty drives us all mad). Anyways we three brave hearts still stuck to our choice of proceeding with our journey. After much waiting of 2 hours standing in a queue, we were told that the flight will take off after all!!!
So, Amit took it upon himself to re-book our connecting flight to next day morning from Bombay to Baroda, Prem took it upon himself to call up Binu our boss to take all necessary approvals and I took it upon myself to have a stay arrangement organized in Bombay when we land (delegated to my trusted husband of course!). All this may seem very simple on surface, but on reflection nobody asked us to do this, we simply saw the need of the hour and assumed responsibility.
I firmly think this is what all great teams are about, “Natural Leadership”- when adversity instead of putting us in a disarray, organizes and directs our action. There is something extraordinary about this phenomenon because the deep desire to contribute, to protect the team like a tribe is organic and natural! The flight which was to take off at 3 pm finally did take off at 7:30 pm and we crossed our fingers that no more misadventures awaits us in the city that never sleeps!
Episode 2 – Sleepless in City that never Sleeps
Why Adversity brings out the best in US (as a team) – Sleep was to elude us for a long time however, we landed at 9:30 pm, only to be advised that the rains were so severe that getting a ride till our hotel would be a tough task, anticipating a long wait again we rushed to catch a rickshaw (tuk-tuk). The effect of the small snack that was given in the flight was wearing off and for a moment the situation with the rains, the slush, the wait, the queues looked impossible. Somehow a good Samaritan helped us on to a rick and all three of us squeezed in to the ride which was just 2.5 km away from the airport.
While I was entertaining my comrades with all my travel horror stories and I have quite a few of them, I suddenly had a premonition that history may repeat itself, because quite simply because history loves repeating itself for some reason. When we reached the reception triumphantly to request for our rooms, only to realize that my lovely husband had booked us for the next night! So, its Mumbai, it’s raining, we have no room, the boys have no bags (it was getting directly shipped to Baroda) and we just lost any form of conveyance when we paid our rick and bid goodbye! So, we did the next logical thing to be done – EAT.
While food was making its way to our table, I was getting my husband to book us through OYO (hotel booking app) and tapping our Uber app to see if a cab will come pick us. While all this was happening, we all realized that if it was not for each other, through all that wait and trouble, at different points we would have each have been terribly overwhelmed and had a meltdown. While adversity brings out either the best or worst in us as an individual, when we work in great teams – adversity brings out only the best! Somehow while I was arguing with the hotel staff to lend us a hotel car to drop us to the new hotel, Prem jay managed to get us a cab. We reached our hotel at 12 pm only to prepare to rise up at 3:30 am to catch our next flight out at 5:30 am.
When Virtue Gets Pooled
So, we rise bright and glassy eyed only to realize that the flight at 5:30 am stands cancelled. But anyhow we thought let’s just go there and chart the next course of action. Thankfully Amit had convinced the cab driver from previous night to come pick us up and he came (small mercies!). We arrive at the airport and find out from serpentine queues everywhere that there is more wait in order as we need to rebook our boarding passes.
After a 1.5 hours wait, we manage 3 seats in the 2 pm flight out of Mumbai. The Wi-Fi was out of order in the entire airport, phone connections sketchy and the long wait was becoming unbearable.
It’s as if humor from Prem, Amit and Subhashini played round robin or magically pooled in and redistributed to carry us through the day. Anyway, so after much ado, 2 pm departure became departure at 3 pm and 3 pm became 3:55 pm. At 4 pm when we finally queue up to board the flight there is a medical emergency and we must deplane again! boarded back after 40 minutes. After all that hullaballoo, the flight takes off at 5:15 pm.
Episode 3: Touch Down @ Baroda
About Shades of Grey and acceptance – Finally touch down, we are in Baroda, only to realize that the boys are not getting their luggage! By the time we arrive at Four Points its 7:40 pm and we decide to meet at 8 pm and go shopping and eating. We were all very happy to see a dental kit at the hotel rooms because none of us were carrying certain basic essentials and those of us who did, had their luggage missing.
So, post shopping, we go to sasumaa (mother-in law in Hindi) restaurant for a good gujarati meal and relax. While all of us displayed may shades of our persona, I felt that in great teams there is a beautiful sense of acceptance of who we are as people. Acceptance is driven by a focus on understanding the cause and not behavior alone. Our understanding of each other is not limited to the surface but a level deeper.
Epilogue: So next day dawned in bright and beautiful, Amit helped rebook my flight from Ahmedabad to avoid torturous wait in Mumbai again and I arrived safe and sound back to Bangalore. Amit & Prem were also reunited with their luggage that evening and Friday saw them back to their hearth safe and sound.
But here is the thing – misadventures / adventures are good! They cement teams, make us better, bring us closer. I know I couldn’t have found better travel companions!