Getting teams to collaborate effectively is hard work; it requires a lot commitment and dedication from managers and leaders. It’s also a fragile balance; in fact, according to Pat Lencioni, best-selling author and expert, they are many dysfunctions that often plague a team’s success.
One of them is inattention to collective results. For a team to work well, everybody has to make collective results their number one priority. The problem is that, more often than not, people will focus on their individual goals rather than on team achievements, adopting a “my part of the boat is not sinking” approach. Even with the best intentions, there is a natural tendency for colleagues to put their department ahead of the whole organization, because they feel closer to that group and responsible for its members.
However, it’s important to understand that individual team members are expected to always do what’s best for the company, not to fight for their functional area of expertise. On an effective team, colleagues are willing to sacrifice the results or the well-being of their subgroup for the good of the whole.
The symptoms of an unfocused team
There are many ways to tell whether a team is focused enough on collective results. First, it’s important to look at how the team comes up with its objectives. If the group is asking “What do we want to accomplish this year?” they are on the wrong path. The question to answer is “What are the company’s goals, and how can we contribute to reaching them?”
The way leaders behave is also very telling. Leaders focused mostly on getting more resources for their own department might be losing sight of what’s best for the company as a whole. Another red flag is when they avoid getting involved in issues that do not concern them directly. On the other hand, when leaders take an interest in matters that go beyond their perimeter, they demonstrate their willingness to help the entire organization, and not just their team or department.
How can teams focus on what matters?
To avoid having colleagues focus on the wrong things, here is a list of best practices that can help.
- Keeping the team focused on global goals. It can be useful to create a visible scoreboard that can display objective information on how well the team performing, and on how much time they have left to reach objectives. It also allows the team to set up their own measurements for success through KPIs.
- Making sure results are achievable. It’s also important to make sure that the team is convinced that they will make it. If objectives are too ambitious, team members risk giving up. They will stop trying and focus their energy on personal goals, which is precisely what should be avoided.
- Prioritizing team needs over personal individual ones. This can require a change of mindset; it means that when necessary, colleagues are able to make sacrifices for the good of the team. They must be willing to drop individual projects to help a teammate, or to switch priorities to re-align with the organization’s overall strategy. It’s a state of mind that requires a lot of flexibility, adaptability and nimbleness.
- Taking collective responsibility for mistakes. Dealing with failure is one of the biggest challenge for a team, and the natural tendency is to blame other colleagues or external factors when things go wrong. The goal for healthy teams is to face the mistake, acknowledge it and start working together to prevent it from happening again in the future.
- Celebrating successes. Just like mistakes should be acknowledged, successes must be praised! It’s great to recognize the individual contributions of colleagues; it will be a great reminder that the whole team is on the way to achieving the collective goals it set out to reach!