When was the last time you were on a team where the participants held different notions about their task? Lack of shared clarity about direction gets teams stuck!
How fast did you make progress together? If your experience is like mine, not very fast.
When there’s no strong agreement about the task at hand, it’s easy for people to bicker about whether each person should be doing what they’re doing.
And once that stuff starts, it’s hard to believe that the team will ever come together, much less accomplish its goals.
Years ago, I listened to the tape set “17 Principles of Success” by Napoleon Hill, the author of the classic book “Think and Grow Rich.”
At the urging of Andrew Carnegie (founder of US Steel who sold his holdings in 1901 for $400 million and gave $350 million to found universities and libraries), Hill spent 20 years in the early part of the last century interviewing over 500 successful men and women in order to discover and document what he called “the science of success.”
Hill’s first principle, the one upon which all other principles stand is “definiteness of purpose.”
I can hear his voice clearly in my head saying, as he seemingly did a thousand times in the tape set, “Nobody ever accomplishes anything without definiteness of purpose!”
My own experience is that at least half of the gains realized by teams with which I have consulted have come from the team becoming crystal clear about what they are to accomplish together.
There are two keys in this requirement. One is the definiteness of purpose as Napoleon Hill calls it. The other is the shared vision of a future state that allows each team member to see how they can contribute and win as a team member.
Shared clarity can be gained by early, aggressive alignment on direction.
The assignment, charter, purpose, mission, deliverable or outcome must be clarified together in conversation.
Think about times when you were given ambiguous direction (i.e.,”Generate revenue!!”) versus clear direction (i.e., “By the end of the year, design a second release of our product our customers want to buy!”). In which situation were you more resourceful?
Clarity for Temporary and on-Going Teams
- When a group’s purpose is temporary — as it is on a project team– it works best to align on the specific task you are to accomplish together.
- When the group is to be on-going — as a department is — it’s important to discuss and align around a never-ending purpose.
Either way, shared clarity is a prerequisite for high performance.
Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch
This week, for at least one team on which you serve, answer this question: If we were already finished and successful, what would the outcome be?
Describe it fully. Then ask team members to do the same — individually.
Finally, talk about what you each decided until you can articulate together a common and clear description of your outcome. I can guarantee you will have added tremendous power to your team.
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.