Team building and company culture in 2017 – what leaders need to know

Posted by in Helen Soulsby, HR, Leadership, Management, Women in sport

SRi’s managing partner in Asia, Helen Soulsby, moderated a panel at All That Matters in Singapore which comprised standout businesswomen in leadership positions including Emma Banks of CAA, Sunita Kaur of Spotify, Stephanie McMahon of WWE, Susana Tsui of PHD Asia Pacific, as well as YouTube superstar and budding entrepreneur Bethany Mota.

Helen summarises the panel discussion that poured over the challenges of modern team building, leadership styles that are fit for purpose today and how to get the best out of enthusiastic yet impatient Millennials.

img_0043Team dynamics and company culture have permanently changed

Technology continues to rapidly change the workplace – that much should surprise no one.

However, the panellists stressed that technology is providing incredible opportunities for businesses to mould their company culture and team dynamics, to harness the power of tech-savvy employees.

It’s often stated that Millennials in the workforce come complete with an undue sense of entitlement; they don’t think they need to earn their stripes or change to fit a company culture that they see as hopelessly outdated.

While this is a sweeping and largely false statement, for Millennials to be at their most effective at work, team leaders must get their full buy-in to the overarching mission, in addition to the immediate task at hand.

Involving younger mem bers of the team in big decisions would have been unheard of just a few years ago, but modern teams will fail to be at their best if this step change isn’t implemented.

Ensuring everyone has the same desire to achieve clear goals is critical, especially when teams can be spread across continents.

Change the conversation about gender

The panel were united in their belief that issues of gender are declining with the entrance of gender-blind Millennials into the workforce, yet more still needs to be done.

More and more women are putting themselves forward for bigger and better roles. Companies that don’t just pay lip service to equality are magnets for younger employees.

Changing the conversation has been immensely successful for the likes of Spotify, who announced six-month maternity and paternity leave at the same time. For many on the panel, great company cultures and teams are the result of ensuring all employees in the workplace are well catered for in terms of work life balance issues.

Making parental leave an employee issue, and not a gender specific one, changes the tone of the conversation and can ensure business wide buy-in.

Asia is different, but the building blocks of great teams remain the same

Teams based in New York that have a focus on North America will likely only need to consider a single culture and language. The complexities of the Asian market mean that teams based in Singapore, for example, will need to factor in tens of different languages, cultures and traditions into their activity.

Though often classed as ‘traditional’, the panel agreed the past five years have been the most progressive in Asia in memory, thanks largely to the internet bringing in outside influences, along with the entrance of Millennials into the workforce.

Yet the challenges of building a great team in Asia are largely the same as in Buenos Aires, Cairo or Stockholm.

One of the biggest changes in Asia, in the opinion of the panellists, is the move towards an ‘instant feedback’ culture. Previously, employees had to wait for their annual review to assess their performance, set targets for the future and discuss any changes in salary.

However, the march of the Millennials has brought a desire for almost continuous feedback, with older members of the workforce having to retrain their thinking to align with the desire of their staff.

An adaptive, open management style that is wholly authentic was cited as being essential to building a great team in Asia and elsewhere.

Remote working hasn’t changed the concept of a team, but leadership styles must adapt

One of the burning questions for business leaders over the past few years is how to hold together some semblance of a team, when remote working means colleagues rarely share the same physical space.

The panel stressed that the concept of a team remains unchanged in that despite working remotely, the team is working together. However, not having your whole team in the same place is challenging for leaders and they must redouble their efforts to inspire their staff.

Another challenge for the older generation is that Millennials no longer define success or job satisfaction by having the biggest office, or having a car and driver waiting downstairs. Modern team leaders need to be in the trenches with their team, leading by example.

The future of teams

Despite hailing from different fields, all of the panellists highlighted the urgent need to bring in staff that were diverse in backgrounds, experience and thinking to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.

Technology will continue to change how we consume content, be it a sporting event, concert or fashion show. The challenge for many on the panel was how they can change their businesses fast enough to keep up with changing technology – the moment a business thinks it has got social media cracked, the platforms consumers use will change again and it will be back to square one.

fb_img_1474009531983Having leaders that can build great teams capable of adapting to rapid change is critical to the success of any modern business. Is your team ready?

Helen Soulsby is the Managing Partner in Asia for SRi, an international management consultancy and executive search company specialising in the sports, media and entertainment market.

Leading teams in Singapore and Beijing, Helen’s role is to drive performance and growth in the APAC business through partnering with clients to deliver executive search assignments, as well as advising on executive board structures to best lead overall business strategy.

The SRi APAC team has built a reputation as the leading business in the region in delivering multi-hire projects that enable businesses to launch in the APAC region with maximum impact. You can contact Helen at or +65 6536 6634.