Successful Teamwork Results From Clear and Elevating Goals – Part 2

This is the second part of my 2-part series about how clear and elevating goals help with teamwork. By “clear” I mean no measurements are needed to know that the goal is reached, and by “elevating” I mean the goal is bold and inspiring. Last week’s post (Part 1) covered the first three points that are essential in this process, here now are point 4 through 6:

4. Ideally, challenge the team to discover such a goal and invest time in that discovery process

In my five-step team orientation process (see Teamwork Is An Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility), I treat the clear and elevating goal as one of five conversations a team must have (in fact, that a high-performance team will naturally engage in). But it’s not the first conversation I would encourage; it’s the fourth. There are three other things I would do first to give the team the best chance of reaching high performance. Those are:

  1. Gain shared clarity about the team assignment or task as the reason for the team
  2. Discover what’s in it for each member of the team to work on this assignment with this team
  3. Make and keep operating agreements or a clear code of conduct to support the team and each team member

These conversations are based on the science of teamwork, and they are in the order of the leverage they provide to the team for the time and resources invested in the conversations. I’ll tell you more about it sometime at my workshop Knowledge Team Leadership.

Businessteam at a meeting5. It’s always a nonlinear process, a lateral-thinking exercise, and a surprising result

Most leaders make the mistake of challenging teams to “choose a number,” setting as its goal a performance metric for the business, project, or technology. That’s frequently misplaced MBA talk. Clear and elevating goals are usually qualitatively different than the assigned task while beautifully supporting the task getting done. For instance, a Wells Fargo team I supported in the early 1990s assigned to launch the first Internet banking service created the slogan “We’re reinventing banking” and envisioned itself on the cover of its industry’s trade journal. The team designed hotel-like hangers for its doorknobs that said: “Do Not Disturb. Busy reinventing banking.” It worked to create an inspired atmosphere for the team.

6. Breaking through conflict helps the team’s performance

It is important to note that clear and elevating goals seldom emerge until well into the project. In the forming-storming-norming-performing metaphor of team development, I’ve found that the storming phase is often resolved by the emergence of a clear and elevating goal, which then guides the norming and performing phases. You can support this process by helping the team develop healthy ways to disagree and stay committed to each other as a team.

Studies show a very high correlation between healthy communication practices (such as brainstorming, creative dialog, team learning, and conflict management) and the highest predictors of team performance (trust, goodwill and cooperation, and respect for individuals). This means you can create the conditions that are ripe for breakthroughs.

Want to apply this information right away?

Assess your project environments, leaders, and teams according to these six observations and ask yourself how you can alter the leadership equation so that teams are free to discover what they really want as a team. You will find that giving team members the change to take ownership of their involvement will create a better end result because they are motivated from having their individual voices heard and validated.

To learn more about maximizing teamwork results while empowering the individual team members, attend Knowledge Team Leadership or bring it to your work site.

Posted in Coaching, Collaboration, Leadership, Responsibility, Teamwork on 09/07/2010 01:00 am
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