Guide - Be aligned to a common goal
What is the Common goal?
Companies, both small and large, never cease to be a network of connected work teams, if that company is to be a successful one. If we ask ourselves what a team is, we can define it as a "group of people organized to carry out a specific activity or work". That "determined task or work" is what constitutes the Common Goal, and it is what makes the difference between a simple group of people and a real team.
Having a clear and defined objective is what unites and gives direction to the team. All of the members in it must be very clear about the objective that unites them, share it, believe in it and feel part of the process in order to achieve it.
It is evident that the work done by a team produces results superior to that which would result from the sum of the individual work of all the members. The prevalence of group interest over personal interests is one of the most defining characteristics of a team. In fact, one of the ways to check that a team can be defined as such, is to see whether or not a level of generosity exists that makes an individual’s interests and needs lower than those of the group as a whole.
In this sense, it is important to take into account one issue: if, in a systematic way, employees must renounce their objectives, needs and individual interests for the good of the team, this will inevitably generate conflicts that will hinder the functioning of the group. For this reason, it is advisable to work out how individual desires and the team's objectives can be nutured simultaneously.
We must also emphasize that this team, beyond its tasks in the short / medium term, will need to see a plan that forms part of the bigger, future picture. This plan is defined by the company’s Vision.
This Vision defines where the company wants to be in the future, and this will in turn define the paths that the different teams need to follow in order to reach it. If a ship wants to trace a route with different stops, it needs to know its last port of call in order to work out how to get there.
What benefits does the team get?
Working in a team is not always an easy task to manage. But if a company is to achieve the results it wants, then this is an essential part of that process. If the leader is able to get his employees to work as a team, this will have a huge impact on the company’s results:
- Coordination: one of the main problems in large companies is often the lack of coordination, especially between departments. If the company does a good job of management and planning to define and share its long-term vision, the different sections can define their own objectives and respect and understand the rest of the company's teams. In addition, within the teams themselves there will be a greater understanding that will have a significant impact on the achievement of objectives.
- Distribution of responsibilities: once the objective of a team is clearly identified, it is essential to establish "who does what and when". This task will be much easier if the leader and his employees already know what results the company expects from them. From there, they will be able to work out the tasks they need to carry out and distribute them according to the competencies, knowledge and preferences of each team member. This means that, if at some point in the process the team stumbles, it will be much easier to identify where the difficulty lies and take the appropriate measures to rectify it.
- Productivity: undoubtedly, if members of a team know what is expected of them and everyone knows their responsibilities, it will be significantly easier to reach desired results. A defined team, with a clear objective and a coordinated operation will be much more effective in reaching set goals.
- Coherence: It is essential that leaders are able to reflect and realize how dangerous it is to occasionally say one thing and then do another: to be incoherent. When a team, starting with the person who leads it, is very clear about its objective, or where it is going, it will be easier for more coherent decisions to be made. In this way, the team can achieve its goal much more effectively.
How can we improve the Common Goal within the team?
"No wind is favorable for those who know not where they go". With this graphic example we can understand the importance of defining the team’s final goal: it is what will allow us to chart the path we need to follow in order to reach it.
Luckily, the Common Objective is one of the most concrete variables that TeamEQ works on, so we have some very effective actions that can be implemented in order to improve this point.
- Clear Rules: the first step to take for a team to work perfectly is to clearly define and set out some rules clearly from the beginning. It is important that the hierarchy is respected, that the deadlines for delivery of each project are clear and that each employee knows exactly what his/her assignment is. That these norms should be clear and defined does not necessarily mean that they must be many. In fact, there are more and more companies that limit themselves to establishing "rules of the game" that mark the limits to follow, but that give flexibility and autonomy to employees.
- Create the Best Team: when forming a team, all members must be convinced of the value, meaning and purpose of the group to which they belong. It is important to select team members based on the skills that are needed to meet the set objectives. Once this is done, it will be necessary to analyze the specific competencies of each employee to assign the most appropriate tasks for them within the project.
- Sharing Responsibility: being part of a team might imply that, on occasion, you will have to stop thinking about yourself and think about what is good for the group. In this way, like in a soccer team, the victories are for everyone, as are the defeats. A good leader implements a sense of shared responsibility within his team, so that the successes are celebrated together, and the problems are addressed and solved in the same way.
- Division of labour: "I’ll do what you can’t, and you do what I can’t". This phrase summarizes the essence of teamwork. In a work group, each employee plays a specific role and has specific skills that others may not have. Similarly, each worker will have some weaknesses that, in a well-structured team, will be covered by the capabilities of another team member. Therefore, it is important to distribute the tasks according to the competencies of each employee, and make sure that each one has a clear idea of what is expected of him/her.
- Decision making in the Team: it is harder for a team to reach its final objective if it is led by a person who does not listen to them or show an interest in the opinions of those around him/her. If certain decision-making processes are shared with the team in a meeting, proposals, ideas and alternatives may come up that the leader alone would not have thought of. By doing this you can also tap into the different skills pertaining to each team member and make him/her feel part of the process required to achieve those objectives.
- Communication: in many sports (American football, baseball, volleyball...) communication through signs, looks and gestures is a fundamental part of a game’s dynamics. Without this communication, teams will probably lose because they have not been able to adapt their strategy to the reality of the situation they experience during the meeting. In the same way, within a company there must be adequate channels so that the members of each team can communicate effectively to define, modify or confirm the strategy when necessary.
- Follow up: when a goal is drawn up within a team, it must remain set in stone. However, it is possible that, under certain circumstances, the initial plans that were drawn up need to be modified. Therefore, it is important to follow the progress of the project and to make sure that it is on track and still viable.
Several key actions to take note of.
1. ESTABLISH S.M.A.R.T. OBJECTIVES
When the objectives upon which the progress of a team or a company will be measured are being established, they need to contain the features summarized by the acronym S.M.A.R.T. There is a lot of information on the Internet about how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals within a team. Its meaning is a follows:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Achievable
- R: Realistic
- T: Time Based
2. CREATING A TRUSTING ENVIRONMENT
A relaxed and collaborative atmosphere will help participants work to the best of their abilities and recognize those of others, which will make it easier to determine which task each employee within the team should take on.
3. INVOLVE EMPLOYEES IN THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
Habitually, the more important objectives are defined by the directors of a company. However, if the steps or series of objectives being drawn up to reach them are discussed simultaneously with members of the group, then this may facilitate ways to achieve those tasks and the most efficient ways to distribute them.
As already said, it is essential to set an objective in order to move in the right direction. However, it is just as important to share that objective with the team. This will make them understand it, internalize it and become much more involved in making it happen. If, during that process, unforeseen events arise, it will also mean that the team can enjoy making some decisions independently of their superiors.
5. WHO DOES WHAT AND WHEN
One of the most important things is to define who is going to be responsible for each task (taking into account their competencies), and how long it should take them to complete it. Once the main objective has been divided up into smaller actions, these can be distributed amongst the members and time frames agreed upon for their completion. Once this is done, the information must be shared with the whole team, either through an e-mail or in a physical format (poster ...).
6. CHANGE OF ROUTE, BUT NOT THE GOAL
"If the plan does not work, change the plan, but do not change the goal." Phrases like this flood the Internet, and reflect the importance of having a clear objective from the beginning. However, it is important to establish "control points" along the way to see if the path that was originally drawn up is really bringing the team closer to the goal. If this is not the case, it is important to meet again with the group and mark the difficulties that have arisen, and what is the best way to solve them.
7. WHAT HAS WORKED AND WHAT HASN’T
Once the project has been completed, or the objective reached, it is advisable to take stock of what has gone well and what needs to be improved. Maybe some wrong decisions were taken, processes inefficient, or there was a lack of material or knowledge... by making a detailed analysis of all this, future projects can be tackled more efficiently.
For a ship's voyage to be successful, it is important to have a capable and inspiring leader, a competent and involved crew and a boat adapted to the needs of the trip. However, it is impossible for the trip to have a happy ending if you do not know your port of destination. If we do not know where we are going, how can we decide on the skills that the crew should have? How will we know what provisions to take? Or what type or size of ship we will need?
That is what defines the Common Objective within a work team. Once the challenge is defined, it is important to check that the team has the technical knowhow and the right skills to achieve it, and to assign each member the tasks that best suit their profile. A series of basic rules within the team and control points need to be defined in order to check that everyone stays on the right track. Once the project is finished, it is important to reflect on which decisions were correct and which ones should be changed in the future.
If you want to know more about the Common Goal, TeamEQ recommends watching these TED talks for guidance and inspiration: