So far, in this series on transforming teams, I’ve discussed:
In my last article, I talked about the Apollo 11 mission to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth. Like many great teams, it took a great many people to accomplish the mission set forth by President Kennedy.
The challenge many of those great teams faced was that passion alone was not enough. Have you ever been part of a group of people who were all excited about a project? Then, as they went off to pursue the mission, they all went in different directions?
While passion for the mission, and the other components I’ve discussed thus far, are key elements of great teams, it is absolutely critical that everyone be on the same page and moving in the same direction, while clearly communicating with everyone at every step of the process.
To help illustrate the importance of everyone moving in the same direction, try this team exercise at your next team meeting (you might also want to have someone grab a couple of pictures of this exercise or, even better, a short video). First, you will need to know where North is, then simply follow these steps:
- Find a space where everyone can spread out about 5 feet apart. Ask everyone to close their eyes. Make sure they are not too close to another person, table, wall or chairs. Also make sure no one has vertigo or may lose their balance with their eyes closed. If they do, ask them to be an observer and not to participate in the exercise.
- Once their eyes are closed, give your team some unique directions. In my workshops, I use some of the following—feel free to make up your own:
- Men turn 90 degrees to the right
- Women turn 90 degrees to the left
- If your commute to and from work is less than 30 minutes turn 45 degrees to the left
- More than 30 minutes turn 180 degrees – it does not matter which way
- If your favorite pizza topping is any type of meat, turn 90 degrees to the left
- Make up one or two more for your location or company uniqueness
- Now, keeping their eyes closed, ask everyone to extend their right arm straight in front of them, then rotate their entire body and point North. Someone will probably point straight up in the air. Simply say, “Up does not count.” Remind them to keep their eyes closed and arms extended.
- Look to see how everyone is pointing—you might even want to take a picture to use later. Have everyone open their eyes and note how many different directions they are pointing.
- Ask the following question. “Is this how our team is operating, everyone going in different directions?
- Next, look at your compass and point to North and have everyone else do the same.
- Ask, “How does everyone pointing in one direction look and feel?”
While this is a simple exercise, it is very visual and thus very effective. Unless everyone was peeking, everyone on the team will be pointing in wildly different directions.
The lesson for the team is easy to point out and elaborate on. When everyone on the team is doing their own thing, they aren’t focused on a common goal and it is easy for the team to lose its sense of direction—its True North.
When everyone on the team is doing their own thing, it is easy for the team to lose its sense of direction.
Use this as your starting point for forming, re-forming, or strengthening your team. Once they understand the importance of everyone working together and moving in the same direction, reiterate the team and the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
There are any number of strategies that you might use to keep your team moving in one direction. Here are three quick ideas to get you started:
Every team needs to understand a few key factors about their mission. Be sure your team knows:
- How they contribute to the overall mission of the organization.
- What everyone’s unique roles are on the team. On a team, it is critical to recognize who is specifically responsible for each aspect of a project.
- How the team's results will be measured.
Cultivate Systems for Team Involvement
Great teams need structure in the beginning. Failing to establish systems for the team can easily get them sidetracked. Team leadership is not democratic —one person is the leader, even on the smallest of project teams. Recognizing this leads to an understanding that the team is not self-directed.
Empower Team Thinking
While challenging ourselves to continually improve is a good thing, we need to realize that, regardless of what we do in life, someone else helps us. One of the greatest ways to help your team think like a team is reflected in a powerful quote from Indira Gandhi:
“There are two types of people in the world. Those who do the work, and those who take credit. Try to be in the first group. There is less competition.”
When everyone on the team realizes this, moving in the same direction becomes second nature.
President John F. Kennedy said it best: “A rising tide raises all ships.” When all team members are truly on ONE team—and are moving in ONE direction—the entire team and, ultimately, the entire organization will become stronger and achieve the DREAM.
Next time, I’ll discuss the final part of the team building puzzle, accountability.
Gregg Gregory is America's teambuilding mastermind, specializing in building winning cultures at every organizational level. A Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) with more than 35 years working at all levels within in corporate America, Gregg has delivered more than 2,000 keynotes and teambuilding trainings to more than 500 companies in the past 20 years. Named an HDI Top 25 Thought Leader in 2017, his expertise and articles have appeared in hundreds of business and trade publications, including SellingPower.com, Boardroom Magazine, and Drake Business Review. Follow Gregg and Teams Rock on Twitter @TeamsRock, Facebook, and LinkedIn.