Leadership Skills: How to Keep the Team’s Main Thing the Main Thing

The main thing great team leaders do is to keep the team’s main thing the main thing.

In my latest post, I told you what great team leaders do: they get everyone on the team feeling like they are in the same boat together.

This is strongly supported by anecdotal evidence and empirical research. For instance, the Knowledge Team Effectiveness Profile (KTEP, a diagnostic instrument I helped to introduce in the USA), shows that Clarity of Purpose is highly correlated with Inspirational Leadership and Project Management, which are correlated with effective communication processes, and together they predict effective team dynamics.

Recently I asked members of a management team with whom I was working to individually write down the purpose of their team. Then we listed each statement on a  board.

Want to know something interesting? Most of them thought their statements were pretty similar, and they congratulated themselves. Yet I thought the statements were diverse and portended poorly for the managers to truly act as a team.

That this group thought their statements were similar was not unique as management “teams” go. As long as they are in the same ballpark, management staffs often feel relatively aligned (I don’t find this as much with project teams).

However, “relatively aligned” is not enough to predict high performance as a team.

Someone smart and funny, Stephen Covey, once said: “The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing.” The problem with being “relatively aligned” is that there are as many “main things” as there are team members. And that’s not good.

Here is the Recipe for Making the Main Thing the Main Thing:

Talk about and decide with your team what the team must be in pursuit of (the main thing) as a team in order to call itself a team. That’s right, a team isn’t defined by the membership. It is defined by what it does as a team. Remember this.

I don’t care whether you call it a goal, task, purpose, or mission — what I do care about is that it meets these three criteria:

  1. It requires contributions from each and every member
  2. It’s larger than any one member can accomplish, and
  3. No member can claim individual victory until the collective “main thing” is successfully accomplished.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Check the alignment of any team, collaboration, or partnership by first writing down what you think the main thing is for that partnership.

Make sure it fits the criteria I give above. Then contact anyone else involved and ask them what they think the main thing is.

You are looking for complete — not relative — alignment.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.




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3 Responses to Leadership Skills: How to Keep the Team’s Main Thing the Main Thing

  1. Jessica Soroky says:

    Great post Christopher!

    I have found that when a team makes the main thing the main thing constantly, the moment the main thing is no longer the main thing it is glaringly obvious in the behaviors and communications of the team.

    • christopher says:

      Thank you Jessica. That is a great observation. It will seve you for the rest of your life and career. I remain convinced, after 23 years in this business, that singularity of focus is the number 1 predictor of team cohesiveness. And it can only be achieved through dialog and never by fiat.

  2. Pingback: Jessica Soroky Guest Post #23: The Key to Getting Past Barriers in Communication | Christopher Avery's The Leadership Gift™ Blog

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