Teams usually have a mutual goal. Sports teams have a goal to win a game or tournament. Scientific teams might have a goal to find a cure, or gather information or find the source of a problem. Work teams have projects such as improving marketing, conducting customer research or product development to name a few examples. What happens to the team goal if the entire team is not clear on the goal or if each member has his or her own agenda either for the team or themselves?
A few descriptive words that come to mind are chaos, confusion, conflict, and failure. Have any of these ever happened to a team of which you’ve been a member? Have you ever been an observer of a team, such as a sports team, and observed the team falling apart right before your eyes. This can often happen during major playoff games where the pressure to win is even greater than normal. How does this same scenario occur in business teams?
Remember playing the childhood game of gossip? One child is given a message and then each person playing passes that same message to another child until the last child repeats what he or she heard. It was always amazing to hear just how distorted the message became. The same can happen in business. When the CEO gives the desired outcome for a team’s performance to the VP and the VP then gives the directions to the Director, and the Director passes those instructions along to the Senior Manager and the Senior Manager then provides the Team Leader with the goals and, finally, the Team Leader provides them to the team. What assurances does the CEO have that the team members receive the exact message he or she delivered? Maybe none. What are some ways to prevent results such as the one from the gossip game derailing projects?
- The Right Stuff: Be sure you select the right members to be on the team for the project at hand. The right mix of talent and attributes is essential to the success of any project.
- The Kick Off: Hold a meeting with everyone at every level who is essential to the project in attendance. This helps to ensure that every team member is on the same page right from the start.
- The Written Word: Follow-up the kick off meeting with essential points in writing. Include items such as the objectives, the process, expectations, deadlines and how accountabilities will be measured.
- Keep Current: Build in check points to monitor the project’s progress, concerns from team members and asses any potential roadblocks to the project’s progress.
Teams cannot move forward and make progress if the members are all pursing a different objective. Teams cannot work in tandem if people with the wrong skills for the current endeavor make up the team. Fulfilling any agenda will be impossible if team members are working on their own and not the organization’s agenda. Don’t let mixed messages, failed communications, or gossip prevent your team from achieving its assigned goals. The little bit of extra effort and time it takes to prepare a team for a project can prove to be invaluable and will be well worth it to help ensure success.