Charisma Glassman Leads High Performance Tech Teams Through Crisis

Charisma Glassman is a technology executive at an International Fortune 500 financial institution leading product technology departments for their internal and external customers. With over 14 years of experience and hundreds of products ranging in size from small to multi-million-dollar technology implementations she has learnt the best ways to develop and motivate high performing teams.

How do you create high performing teams?

I always strived to learn and grow as an individual, and I have a deep held belief that everyone from the clerk to the most talented programmers, everyone wants to be part of something bigger and grow as individuals. The underpinnings of my success at developing high performing teams revolves around five key leadership points.

What are some of the most important key leadership points from your view?

I believe people like clarity with their goals. So, my first point is to have leadership from manager to executive to clearly state business outcomes and objectives. Over the span of my career, I have led teams with managing, developing and integrating complex system designs and digital products that bring and save millions for the organizations. As a leader, I try to align outcomes and deliveries with the skills on my teams and pair talent with complementary skills so that there is not only business continuity but also an understanding that all of us can learn something from each other. There is also high value in clearly explaining the “why” as to why it is important to the business and the value it will bring to the organization. If the team is talented the tactical roadmaps, features and delivery execution is much smoother if you continue to form the right culture as a leader. Point 1, drive action by having every actor in the organization state clearly their business outcomes and objectives.

How do you get a buy in from your team to commit to your vision? 
Sure, there is always resistance to getting people to commit to a certain corporate objective or business outcome in the beginning because as humans we don’t like change. Consequently, I always push my product leaders to clarify business outcomes by answering several rounds of Q&A from their teams and then getting oral commitments from their team members over joint conference calls.  With virtual meetings it can make it harder to see facial expressions and collaborate as compared to in-person, so it is important to slow down the pace of these meetings to allow for clarification. Funny thing is when people agree to something there is a switch in their brains that goes off making them more motivated to meet those goals, some psychologists call this a “need for consistency.” Another thing is that when others hear their colleagues committing and get an overall consensus it makes it easier to get a buy in. Point 2, take time to clarify business outcomes and gain consensus to those goals from everyone on those products from small ones to large corporate initiatives.  

What are some ways teams can get organized?

In this modern day we have so many tools to keep organized, schedules, Gannett charts, roadmaps and on and on, at the end of the day I feel holding people accountable for delivering helps drive organization and execution more than any tool. With the understanding of responsibility and accountability in mind, this drives teams to perform and select the appropriate tools to drive execution. Point 3, Empower teams and keep them accountable to agreed outcomes.

What incentives do you use to strategically drive execution across teams?

Corporations have their own defined incentive methods but one thing that is often overlooked is delivery of feedback mechanisms. The tough guy attitude of the industrial revolution is over and done, the current generation likes to be motivated, coached and given constant feedback that makes them feel like they are part of a team.  I always coach and mentor my teams to drive and improve results as with the right direction one can really form high performing teams and organizations. Point 4, complementing teams on achievement of milestones, coaching on how to improvise constantly, and doing retrospectives, is vital to driving learning across the organization.

How do you promote innovation in your organization?

This brings me to a key understanding I developed over years, that is “ideas” and “openness to ideas” is key in high performing teams. Technology companies need a constant stream of ideas to drive projects forward. If you shutdown people when they suggest new ideas, you are effectively saying that you do not value their contributions and do not want new ideas. Being open to new ideas requires patience, you need to let people talk, and then you need to listen as a leader. Some organizations also have think tanks and incubators to enhance innovation abilities.  Point 5, Drive innovation across the organization by training managers to listen first to ideas, reserve judgement, and promote the contribution of ideas across all teams.   

How do you make the organization more agile to these changing times?

I am constantly monitoring the performance of my teams and motivating them to achieve higher goals. The command-and-control system of the military was directly inherited by the corporations is not vital in corporations as they create too much rigidity and reduce flexibility. Flat organizations are a start, but you need to give managers and leadership the ability to empower team members with responsibility, responsibilities to make changes, responsibilities to motivate others and so on. Empower team members to distribute responsibilities lower in their organization, and then hold them accountable. Point 6, all actors in the organization, from VPs to line managers must be trained to distribute responsibilities, confiding decision making power to single points create rigidity and stagnation.    

So, what do you consider the most important of the lessons you just mentioned?
Organizations are built on layers of behaviors and processes that form their culture; my model is similar to a pyramid. When you build a pyramid you have levels, each level supports the next. For me the foundation of the pyramid is the talent inside the corporation, here the management skills complement the team’s abilities to make a talent pool that can drive action. The next level is clearly empowering the teams. Here my point is around clear outcomes and objectives, gaining consensus on goals, empowering teams, constant improvement, and allowing for distributed responsibilities. Finally, the top level of the pyramid is around accountability and rewarding high performance. The world of today is changing at such a rapid pace, COVID pushed changes that normally would occur in a decade into the space of a year, thus our core corporate behaviors will help drive these massive changes in record time and in a sustainable way.