On your team, you want everyone working together, striving to hit the same goals. It seems like it ought to be easy. After all, everyone is on the same team. However, the more people who are involved on your team and in your organization, the harder all that becomes. People create their own goals and purposes for work. They become more self-focused and seem to have less of a vested interest in the success of others. That doesn’t make them bad or selfish; it just makes them human.
There are a range of reasons why keeping a team all on the same page becomes more difficult as the number of people involved grows, but talking about that is less important and valuable than talking about how you can fix it. So let me give you some ideas to get everyone working together. Use these approaches to inspire and influence, not to force (which likely won’t work anyway):
Help people see the big picture
Emerson said that it is hard to see the forest when you are the forest. Individuals see the tree in front of them, identify with that tree, and make that tree (task, approach or goal) their own. That makes total sense to the individual. It’s your job to raise their sights and help them see something bigger, more expansive and more valuable. With an expanded view, people start to see the interconnections between their work and the work of others.
If you want people to work together, they must know what it is they are working for and why it is important to do so.
Talk in plain language
Real people talk in plain language. When you move to corporate speak with lots of fancy terminology and acronyms, you lose people. How would you share your messages relating to purpose and goals with your grandmother or an 8-year-old? Then compare that to how you typically talk with your team, and answer these questions:
- Which set of messages works better for you?
- Which do you want to listen to?
- Which will inform and inspire you?
I’m betting your answers are the same as mine. The goal isn’t to be “cool” or professional. The goal is to connect with your audience. Embrace the simple and straightforward.
It isn’t just about the goals. Are you more interested in someone else winning if you know and like them? Are you more willing to help others and celebrate their successes when you care about them? Of course you are, and so are your team members.
Take time, make time, and even create time for relationships to build. Not just with you, but with your entire team. Help people connect. Help them find common ground. Make it part of the job expectations that people get to know each other. They may not become friends, and that is OK. What you want are strong working relationships. That’s the only way you will hit your goals.
Create all-win situations
You want everyone on the team to see how they win when they help others win. When that happens, everyone will operate like a well-oiled machine. Your job is to make that happen. Be careful about internal competition. Keep it healthy and not divisive. Give people more ways to work together, and recognize and reward their efforts when they do. When you help people win, they want to keep winning.
Check the cultural messages
Consider the culture people are working in as well. If the pay structures focus on individual contributions, if the message people receive is that lone heroes win, and if there is no recognition for contributions or teamwork, all your efforts will be diminished in value.
Make sure that the cultural cues are helping people work together, not against one another.
Watch out for sabotage
Remember that there is a difference between people being self-interested and relatively ambivalent about others and people wanting to win at all costs. If people are actively or covertly sabotaging others, you must coach them past that, or invite them to leave.
Ultimately, team members will pull for the team and other individuals on it when they see a worldview where doing so makes sense for themselves. Your goal as a leader is to help people create a picture of success that includes everyone on the team winning together.