“To bind a team together, grind the team together”, says a former Black Cat Commando Lt Col Rakesh Krishnan who recently retired from the National Security Guard (NSG) and his about to launch his own startup.

Can the former commando – apply learnings from the elite forces to his startup? “Yes!” says Krishnan and further explains – for any business to be successful – you need a motivated and cohesive team. And, to form a good team takes time, effort and innovative ways of bonding- and the special forces are the masters at the craft of team building.

In the corporate world, as in startups, keeping a team motivated and cohesive is an everyday challenge. G R Reddy, the founder of Husys Consulting- a listed company that provides end-to-end human resource solution, says, ” companies look for team players and not individual players.” 

He further explains an “organisation is a group of people with a common cause. Hence all who can work with others and complement each other is the key for selection and for excellence.”

So, given the limited resource, how can startups build an Alpha Team. Though there are hundreds of books, YouTube videos and content on line on team building- we list out five ways the Black Cat commandos build their teams.

Grind together

He says, be it success or failure the black cats are in it together. Irrespective of the rank; If an operation or a training program requires’ the team to swim or walk through a sewage- they do it- together! Similar, spirit of togetherness should be inculcated by startups, as, this helps build a sense of oneness among team members.

Surprise competition & instant rewards

According to Krishnan, to develop muscle memory in a person; you have to repeat a motion or action approximately 3500 times. That is what jugglers do- they train their muscles to work together in a synchronised motion.

Similarly, the Black Cats spend numerous hours training and honing their skills.

Image Courtesy : Lt Col. Rakesh Krishnan, CPP.

To keep his commandos motivated for the long haul, he would organise surprise competitions.

And, the winner would be given instant cash rewards. Thus, he advises founders’ to devise challenges that can help speed up or improve the overall performance a startup. But while doing that, back up competitions with instant awards.

Reprimand but don’t sideline

When you are dealing with people from diverse backgrounds and each carrying some sort of emotional and personal baggage- as a leader you have to understand that people do – Snap!

According to the former Commando, at such times, don’t reprimand people in public and having “punished him then don’t sideline him” because then it amounts to being punished twice for the same mistake.

An experienced manager will agree; when you sideline people – it creates an adverse impact on the individual and by extension his or her team.

Customise hiring process

Ideally, a team should be built around highly motivated individuals. The members of the Black Cat commandos are volunteers from across the armed and paramilitary forces.

This highly motivated force is picked after an intense screening process.

Only a small percentage of those who volunteer-make to the final list, explains, Lt Col Krishnan. Startups too should design a customised selection procedure that is in sync with their requirements.

They can seek professional help both for drawing up a process or for screening a candidate.

Climb down from a high chair

It is a standard practice among the armed forces personnel to connect at social events such as “Barakhanna”- loosely called the grand dinner.

The corporates world organises ‘of-sites’. In both cases, the aim is to build bridges among staff. “You want people to let their hair down,” says, the former Black Cat.

However, his advice to managers is to climb down from their high chair at social events. When you connect with your team at their level – only then you will get a glimpse of their worries, fears, bias and source of happiness.

Team building is a long drawn process that begins at the time of recruitment. Leaders have to innovate ways to build a motivated and cohesive team.

(The author is founder & CEO of AskMentor. Views expressed are personal.)


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