Leading a team is as challenging as it is rewarding. The best teams are not the ones that keep their noses to the grindstone, but the ones who master the perfect balance between work and deeper connection. It’s down to the leaders to ensure that is possible.
I spoke to James Reid, VP, Cisco CX EMEA UKI, to find out how.
What is it that makes a group of co-workers become a team?
James: Understanding what the common goal is, but also what the individuals are striving towards, and having each other’s back in both. We all have different stories, passions, and struggles, and I believe that if you feel that your teammates understand and respect you as an individual, you give more of yourself in return. Bringing your whole self to work and being genuine and vulnerable with each other creates a better, safer work environment. People feel more connected, satisfied, and build great working relationships. I think one of the reasons Cisco is a great place to work is because here work is much more than just getting the job done.
That’s the theory, what about the practice? How do you apply this to your team?
James: Something that we are particularly interested in within the CX UKI Team is creating an environment where everyone can be their best selves, making the most of their strengths and skills. One important example is neurodiversity and how we can support our colleagues so that they feel and perform great at work. Simple changes like providing a quiet room for individuals or an office setup that supports the needs of every member of the team makes a difference.
We also create time and space for the team to connect and talk about everything that is important to them, including difficult topics like divorce, mental health, financial problems, menopause or dealing with children who’ve got difficulties at school. It turned out that we share more experiences than we had ever anticipated and exchanging them enabled us to support and learn from each other. Empowering your team to build relationships and trust like that results in a far stronger team connection, and if you look at it from a business perspective, the more trust and support you have in your team, the lower the attrition. It’s important, especially in a highly competitive market, but that’s not why we do it. We do it because it helps each team member feel supported to be their best self.
A great opportunity to connect as a team is giving back. One of the activities the CX UKI team does is supporting Pride London. Can you share a little detail on how your team are involved?
James: Cisco has supported Pride in London for many years, and we always have a good representation at Pride events. We also run a lot of Pride initiatives internally. This year, however, we have the opportunity to get even more involved as the proud sponsor of Pride in London 2023.
As you can imagine, thousands of participants texting, calling their friends, and posting on social media can generate quite a traffic online! We will deploy a WiFi platform for the parade to ensure that the organisers and media partners have access to a robust, secure connection. The team will use our Meraki WiFi to provide operational resiliency and to stream the event to remote locations. We will also have a fantastic float, with transformation and sustainability as themes.
The team are contributing their time and skills to ensure the event runs smoothly, and I am proud to see how passionate everyone is about supporting this fantastic event.
Inclusion, giving back… It’s all extremely important, but it’s just the tip of the leadership iceberg. Building a team is a complex task, but if you were to give one piece of advice to leaders looking to make the most of their teams… What would it be?
Listen to your team. You have incredibly passionate people around you and if you give them the opportunity to speak up and shine… they will! Everybody has a busy agenda, so give your team the space and the time to focus on what’s important and developmental to them and get involved yourself. Make sure your team knows the topics that are important to them, are also important to you. Lead from the front.
Want more? Read the “Gaining Skills for Life with Cisco Apprenticeship” with James Reid for insights on Early in Career programs.