Too often, departments work independently of each other. The sales team closes a deal with terms that the operations team can’t profitably deliver. Colleagues from different teams carry out individual conversations with the same client company, instead of working together to come up with a unified, client-centric solution.
When individuals and departments try to put their own goals first, cooperation declines and the whole company loses clarity on which direction it should go in. The solution is to establish one clear vision for the entire company.
Organizational performance improves when leaders define and communicate a goal, put incentives in place to motivate and reward aligned behaviors, and hold people accountable for results around a shared purpose.
Here are four steps to getting your team aligned and operating more efficiently.
1. Define What Kind of Team You Want
Most of us understand teams in the context of sports, but not all teams operate the same way.
On one end of the spectrum, think of a bowling team. While individual players’ scores contribute to a total team score, each player performs on their own. One person’s outcome does not impact the performance of another player.
On the other end of the spectrum is the crew team. Each member of a crew team has a specific role and how well they execute it impacts their team members. Perfect rhythm optimizes team performance and boat speed. One person’s miscues jeopardize the team’s ability to achieve its goals for balance, timing, and speed.
A well-run company, like a top-tier rowing crew, seeks a high degree of communication, interdependence, and accountability from everyone. Employees must fulfill their roles with an eye on establishing the rhythm and balance that will set the company up for success.
2. Choose Your Goal and Understand Key Dependencies
In business, as in sports, the ultimate goal is to win. Breaking down this goal into specific objectives and key dependencies is critical to driving progress.
For example, the goal of a crew team is to win by maximizing speed and efficiency to finish in the shortest amount of time. A key dependency for achieving this goal could be getting off the starting line quicker or navigating a straighter path to shave a certain number of seconds off their most recent time.
Most business goals typically fall into two categories:
- Results-based goals: “Achieve $X in new sales by year-end” or “Improve profitability by Y percentage points”
- Operational goals: “Improve referral rate by X%” or “Reduce employee turnover by Y%”
At Saggezza, we have goals around profitable growth and quality in client-service delivery. We recognize that talent acquisition and development are key dependencies of attaining our goals. As such, we focus on attracting the best people and investing in their development to leverage the latest technologies in solving complex problems for our clients. We know that doing so leads to the highest quality deliverables and earns referrals from satisfied clients that contribute to our continued growth.
The goal you choose will guide the decisions and strategies of your company moving forward.
3. Define Clear Strategies and Align Expectations
Every department must develop strategies to work toward the common goal. These strategies should be aligned in such a way that any decision, resource allocation, and action in one department pulls in the same direction as every other department.
Each employee should also understand the strategic plan, their role in contributing to desired outcomes, and how others in the organization rely on the outcomes they produce.
In rowing, a typical race strategy might look like this:
- Short, quick strokes to get off the starting line
- Long, powerful strokes in the middle
- A sprint to the finish that’s initiated at just the right time to deliver the win
What does this sort of planning and communication look like at an organization? It starts by asking the right questions:
- How do communications flow?
- Are the right processes and mechanisms in place to enable these communications?
- What metrics are in place to measure results?
- Are the right people with the right skills in place to produce desired outcomes?
- Do incentives motivate and reward "one team" behavior?
A clear understanding of answers to questions like these introduces role clarity, complementary skills, and repeatable processes that help to set teams up for high performance and success.
4. Enforce Accountability and Seek Continuous Improvement
You can’t enforce accountability without first clearly communicating expectations. This is especially important when shifting everyone’s focus from individual or departmental goals to a company-wide goal.
To continually reinforce the goal you’ve chosen so that it’s top of mind for employees, you might:
- Put a face to the goal by releasing statements or holding town hall meetings.
- In your messaging, establish a sense of purpose. Explain why the goal is important and how company strategies are aligning to achieve that goal.
- Have managers cascade communications to all members of their teams and be open to feedback and clarifying questions from all levels of the organization.
- Share news about how departments and individuals are contributing to the goal.
Recognition is a strong motivating factor. Sharing individual or team wins could boost morale and improve productivity.
But it’s just as important to take swift action when employee behaviors do not align with the company goals. Immediate feedback while experiences are fresh in mind, financial repercussions, or even termination of employment can send loud messages of commitment to the strategy and the “one team” approach.
Learning From Progress and Developing a Winning Mentality
As your company commits to a goal and makes progress, it’s critical to learn from both a team’s successes and its challenges:
- What has worked that we should keep doing as a team?
- What didn’t work that needs to be done differently?
There must be an environment to discuss these topics candidly and with a solution-oriented tone.
This type of strong leadership and ability to adapt is what produces a winning mentality within the organization. The promise of collective success will encourage everyone to work together, and ultimately get everyone rowing in the same direction.