David Fletcher, a heavily overworked portfolio manager of the Emerging Growth Fund at a New York investment management firm, plans to ramp-up a team of research-analysts. He wishes to delegate a part of his workload to this team. The case explores the problems that David faces at various stages of introducing new members in his team. It also touches upon the challenges faced by a typically task oriented person while engaging in a team building exercise. Is David Fletcher successful? As an individual, David Fletcher is extremely successful at his job.
An economics major and a Harward business school graduate, he started his career as a securities analyst in a New York based brokerage firm. He cut through the ranks in relatively quick time and very soon he was handled the responsibility of two of the most aggressive mutual funds of his time. David continued his stellar performances in these funds even as he took them to 10 times their original/starting value. In the words of his colleagues and close cronies, David was not only a detail and decision oriented person but was also a person who was extremely familiar with the art and the science of portfolio management.
In the latter half of his described career, David joined Paul Jenkins to form the Jenkins Fletcher partners where he managed a portfolio of 150+ million US$ single handedly. David’s performances in the various roles he assumed during his career amply justify his credibility as an individual and as a professional (portfolio manager). As a team player, colleagues acknowledged David’s acumen in the field of portfolio management. In a way, David commanded respect from his colleagues and superiors alike which is testament to the fact that David was an internal cog in the teams that he worked in. As a team manager, David’s success is questionable.
I wish to analyze his stint at building and thereafter leading and managing a team at Fletcher Jenkins partners to substantiate my aforementioned stance. This brings me to address a more pertinent question first, What was David’s motivation to build a team? As mentioned previously, David is a highly overworked portfolio manager. Being the best at what he does, in a way, acts as a detriment to his position as he has to juggle with multiple tasks at a time. As one of the main portfolio managers of Jenkins Fletchers partners, David manages a huge pile of investor’s money (to the tune of 150 million US$) from a total fund size of 400 million US$.
If managing a fund wasn’t enough, David also has to do the research of the industries/markets from which he builds his portfolio himself. He is often faced with an information overload which prompts him to look for individuals who can assist him in doing justice to his task. As I delved deeper into the case, I realized that David’s intention behind building a team, in a manner, was to ensure the success of his portfolio irrespective of how the success was achieved. David was so clinical in his pursuit of focusing on his fund’s performance that he became oblivious to the imbalance in his team.
In consequence, this approach had David lose two of his critical team members. In the following section, I wish to analyze the core factors that contributed towards David’s relative lack of success as a team manager. Why did David’s pursuit of building an effective team not achieve the desired success? There were multiple mistakes that Fletcher made while ramping up his team of research analysts. Some of his shortcomings are blaringly evident in his interactions with his subordinates and colleagues. Take the case of Stephanie Whitley, with whom he shared a very close relationship.
In his haste to recruit Doyle, Fletcher completely overlooked the act of taking Stephanie into confidence. The lack of consent and thought for how he would fit into the company’s culture and moreover how he would gel with Stephanie Whitley became evident when tension grew between Doyle and Whitley. At a time when both Whitley and Doyle should have provided inputs to each other in their work, most of their time was spent and therefore rendered unproductive in ego-trips rather than on focusing on their work. To make matters worse, Fletcher failed to resolve the conflict by taking a passive approach.
In fact, Fletcher admitted that he did not actively try to resolve the conflicts which culminated in it being stretched all the way till one of the affected parties – Doyle left the firm. In his methodology of approaching people problems, David Fletcher has exudes callousness. At some plane, it just seems as though Fletcher does not aim at forging relationships with his team members but just tries to leverage their skills and synergies to achieve his final outcome – performance of his portfolio. Fletcher’s callousness is evident in the way he hypothesizes Whitley’s problem as being one of requiring more attention.
Fletcher’s attitude caused him to lose credibility with Whitley to such an extent that she did not even confide in him about her decision to quit the job at Fletcher Jenkins partners. Also, in his handling of Doyle, the new associate, Fletcher exudes a certain degree of inflexibility. Doyle, according to the case is excellent in his job at managing portfolios of large Hi-Tech product companies. Even as he joined, Doyle started to research upon stocks of emerging stocks in the same market. Obviously, Doyle was unsuccessful at the beginning because of a probable longer ‘unlearning curve’.
It is evident that Fletcher allows Doyle to move on in a bid to retain Whitley, however the situation could have been better handled by firstly resolving the personal differences and thereafter by infusing some confidence in Doyle – In that way Fletcher could have retained both his critical employees. Can we see any positives from Fletcher’s behavior thereafter? Yes. In a bid to learn from his past mistakes, Fletcher does try and make a conscious attempt to get new employees acquainted with his existing team before recruiting them.
As is evident during the discussions on recruiting Mary Robinson, Fletcher actually has Rachel Kindred meet Mary Robinson in person at Boston. This, he presumes, shall allow them to reach to an understanding of each other as persons before establishing their compatibility as colleagues. Even in this case, however, he does not use the same procedure of recruitment with Robert Fiske. The case is left open-ended at this point, so it might not be an argument one can convincingly hold against Fletcher.
What can we learn from this case, Is this practically feasible? This case, in itself is an excellent example of how callousness towards understanding people’s problems can end up disrupting the performance of a team. I hail from a successful Sales team in the IT sector. From personal experience, I can attest that it is usually not feasible to take the entire team into confidence before the recruitment of a new team member. However, broad level interaction issues – such as the one witnessed in the case can definitely be addressed at the outset.
Secondly, I believe that the efforts taken to recruit a team member or to build a team are directly proportional to the criticality of the task carried out by the team. I have witnessed this factor at my workplace and this was evident in the case as well. In my experience, I have witnessed that during the recruitment of a candidate for the role of a business development manager, prospective candidates were actually flown down to the UK at my company’s expense. This role was obviously highly critical for our company’s prospects and the efforts taken by the company were commensurate to the same.
In the context of the case, it is interesting to note the background of David Fletcher. He happens to be a Portfolio manager. As a part of his core job itself, he is responsible to pick multiple stocks by looking at their behavior. In totality, his job is to pick up such stocks that would be completely synergistic and thereby build a winning/high performing portfolio. If a direct analogy is drawn to the way Fletcher picks his team, this is the base principle on which he should have picked his team as well. It is only on recruiting perfect complements in his team that Fletcher could have ensured a synergistic performance in his team.
Why is this case relevant to me as a person? I wish to embark on a career in financial services wherein I might be assuming a role similar to that assumed by David. It is said that “If you wish to go quickly, go alone but if you wish to go far, go together. ” To go together effectively, it would be imperative for me to contribute towards building a strong team. For this, I would not only have to trust my own instincts but would also have to trust my team members and enable them to realize their self worth. Effectively, it is only when the self interests of team members are aligned with the team interest, that a team is successful.