How can leaders help their teams to focus on collective results?
By Roz Thornton, Founding Partner, Roots Transformation
It’s a familiar scenario in leadership teams; certain individuals putting their personal or departmental objectives ahead of those of the team and the organisation. Losing sight of collective goals happens when people’s own objectives seem more pressing and relevant, or because they believe they’re vying for their place in a competitive environment.
Of course, when ego, ambition or personal targets of individual leaders gets in the way of achieving the overarching goals of the leadership team, it can be damaging. Trust is eroded and teamwork impeded. But the good news is that, by investing time and effort to help your team focus on achieving collective results, you will undoubtedly reap rewards. As Patrick Lencioni, author of ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ says: “The teams that figure it out have a bigger advantage than ever before because most of their competitors are just a bunch of individuals looking out for themselves”
To avoid the pitfalls and help your team stay focused on achieving collective results, consider taking the following steps:
1. Get the right people on the bus
Making sure you have the right people on your team is the crucial first step. In the words of American author, Jim Collins: “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” In his best-selling book ‘Good to Great’ he talks about the importance of getting the right people on the bus and explains that leaders of great companies don’t figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. Instead, they get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus first, then they figure out where to drive it.
Focus on attracting and retaining great talent; people who not only have the right technical skills and expertise, but who share your organisation’s values and vision. It’s equally important to realise when you need to remove someone from the team who isn’t the right fit - for the good of the team and the organisation. Once you have a team of smart, dedicated people with shared values, you can focus on the next step:
2. Build a cohesive leadership team
Most importantly, building a cohesive team involves developing a foundation of vulnerability-based trust, as we discussed in our previous blog on the subject. When team members can be vulnerable with one another and are willing to admit to their shortcomings and mistakes, a culture of trust can exist. Individuals are then able to engage in healthy debate, commit to team decisions and hold one another accountable for acting on those decisions.
These are the critical behaviours of high performing, cohesive leadership teams according to Patrick Lencioni’s ‘Five Behaviours of a cohesive team’ model, which we use as a basis of our work developing leadership teams.
3. Establish the direction of travel.
Once you have a cohesive leadership team in place, it’s time to establish its direction of travel. Team members need to understand why the organisation exists and their place within it. This is about planning for success - establishing roles, responsibilities, priorities and goals, and agreeing on the collective results the team must achieve for the good of the organisation.
Author and executive coach, John Baldoni, emphasises the importance of keeping team goals front of mind and working to make sure any rivalries are achievement-oriented, and not personal. “Bruised egos are fine; hurt feelings are not. Make certain that everyone continues to feel part of the team” he says. Good advice!
To keep your team focused on achieving collective results, it’s wise to focus on recognising and rewarding only the actions and behaviours that contribute to those results. And, as team members work together best when they have a compelling reason to do so, we recommend deciding on a Thematic Goal for the team. This will be a core priority; the thing that will make the biggest difference to the business within a short time frame. Working towards a Thematic Goal - for example, improving customer satisfaction, launching a new product or increasing market awareness - will bring the team together and out of their silos to focus on a collective result.
4. Maintain the bus!
Once you’ve achieved steps one to three above, don’t be tempted to take your foot off the pedal! It’s crucial to keep cultivating the behaviours that have resulted in a cohesive and high performing leadership team. Even when the team has mastered these behaviours, individuals can lose sight of the collective from time-to-time, so it’s important to watch out for it and take steps to address it.
Consistent practice is the key: ‘Teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing a small set of principles over a long period of time’, says Lencioni, and we agree. To that end we've created a variety of free resources to help teams develop and practice the critical behaviours, which you can access at: https://www.rootstransformation.com/resources