Imagine what it would be like if you were in a team where everyone was going in a different direction to everyone else.
Probably wouldn’t be so great, would it? And yet, this is quite a common occurrence. People are busy with their own thing, their own task and may not reflect on whether they are in line with their team members.
Does it really matter? – you may wonder. If everyone is doing a good job, surely that’s all that’s needed?
Yes, it does matter – more than you may think. Without a shared direction, you will never benefit from being part of a team. Without it, team members set off in what they think is the best direction, hopefully with good intention, but it certainly won’t be as clear or aligned as the direction a winning team needs to take. Besides, it’s bound to create overlaps and re-work at what could be an avoidable cost.
“Without a shared direction, you will never benefit from being part of a team”
Without a shared direction and a common purpose – a reason for being – you’re not really a team, you’re simply a number of people that happen to report to the same manager. The best, strongest, most effective teams own and take responsibility for their purpose, their shared mission. So getting a team to go in the same direction is one of the most important tasks of a team’s leader to initiate and entice his/her team members to do. As a team member you can also help to initiate this – it doesn’t have to be done by the leader.
”The best, strongest, most effective teams own and take responsibility for their purpose”
Let’s get practical. Here are eight great ways to get your team walking in the same direction. And although this should ideally be guided by the team’s leader, everyone can play a part in making it happen – and actively align and connect with colleagues on the shared mission.
- Find your common purpose as a team
This is the team’s reason for being, why the team exists. Involve the team in creating and identifying this common purpose. When everyone has been involved, rather than just being told, ownership is greater, it’s as simple as that.
”When everyone has been involved, ownership is greater, it’s as simple as that”
- Make the purpose practical
Make sure the purpose is very clear for everyone by making it tangible, actionable and achievable. Make links between how the team’s actions contribute to the team’s mission/purpose and ulitmately of course, to the organisation’s vision. Make these links as visible as possible – draw a picture, a diagram of how it all hangs together.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities
With clear roles and responsibilities for each member, the purpose is even easier to take responsibility for. Link the roles and responsibilities to the team purpose so that everyone can see how it all fits together. Make the links as explicit as possible.
”Link the roles and responsibilities to the team purpose”
- Take shared team responsibility
Discuss as a team what your shared responsibilities are. Everyone in the team needs to understand that he/she is responsible for the overall results of the team, not just his/her own goals. Realise that you can achieve more if you don’t just take responsibility for your specific tasks but the delivery of the team as a whole.
- Create the link between team members
Sometimes team members can’t see the link between themselves and their colleauges. Help them see it! Even if the link is weak/unclear, create that link and make it stronger. Explore with your team members what they have in common through their contribution to the bigger organisation. Also recognise the benefits you can all have from being a team.
”Explore with your team members what they have in common”
- Use a crisis to help you
When a team faces a crisis, they are forced to work to deal with it. Use the learning that the crisis gave you as a team. Analyse what you did well and then keep doing it. There’s no need to wait for another crisis to work well together – imagine how good it could be if you worked like that all the time!
- Share strengths-based feedback
Be observant – recognise how each person contributes to the team’s work and results. Look for the best in others and tell them about it. Strengths-based feedback is when you share a specific observation you have made of a person using their strength(s) – and then let them know how that contributed to the team results and therefore also to the team’s purpose.
”Look for the best in others and tell them about it”
- Build your team charter
Create a document that describes the team’s purpose, goals, roles and responsibilities, how you will work together and other agreements you’ve made as a team. When the team produces this together, it makes it a visual and very powerful reminder of your joint commitment.
It’s not uncommon that teams that seem to have a hard time marching in the same direction and owning that shared purpose, habitually think about everything that makes them different from their colleagues, rather than looking for what they have in common. So intention is crucial; have the intention to find commonality and choose to walk collaboratively in the same direction.
”Choose to walk collaboratively in the same direction”
Have you ever heard the story of the cleaner at NASA who described that his job was to help put people in space? He saw the link all the way from his tasks through to the overall vision of the organisation, clearly seeing his own important contribution.
So clarify that compelling vision and meaningful purpose as a team, as people respond to both. Enjoy your journey together!
About the authors
Mandy Flint & Elisabet Vinberg Hearn, award-winning authors of ”The Team Formula”.
Their new book ”Leading Teams – 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions” is out now, published by Financial Times International.
Praise for ”Leading Teams: ”This book is a 21st-century guide on how to build a world-class team. I highly recommend it” Steve Siebold, Founder, Mental Toughness University, Florida USA.