We recognise the need for teams to go on ‘the’ journey, not just be driven blindly or taken for the ride – and that journeys must have a clear beginning, middle and end (before moving onto the next adventure/business challenge).
But how do leaders of teams engage teams to willingly go on a journey?
First up, our role is to provide clarity of purpose (the direction of travel) and a reference point for the journey (within a given landscape). There are 3 specific levels to this:
- Marco – Where does this business exist in the context of the sector?
- Meso – Where does this team challenge exist in the context our business?
- Micro – Where does the work I do exist in the context of the team?
Chris Myers – CEO of BodeTree Forbes contributor :
“In any reasonably complex organization, maintaining clarity in all things is of the utmost importance. Without it, organizations quickly come unglued and little bumps—like an angry client or misinformed employee—turn into mountains. But with busy schedules, seemingly endless task-lists and diverse personnel, creating a smooth flow of communication can be a challenge. Usually no one is to blame but the process itself.”
Collective Understanding only exists where there is a common language, without jargon or words that confuse. The ambiguity of ‘words, ‘phrases’ and ‘metaphors’ – are these helpful tools for understanding or the enemy of fact and context clarity?
Metaphors can provide a way to draw people in and help them understand a concept but may not help with application and operationalising actions within a specific context. Metaphors must be quantified with a ‘what this means for me’ – a check for collective understanding with the team. There is a real need to check – Do we all have an agreed understand for a. what was said and b. what this means for me as an individual? (and if we are a really connected team c. what does this mean for others?). Consider the following often used phrases:
We are in a sticky situations…
- We are at a tipping point…
- We need to be more teamy…
What do these actually mean? Without the facts of what this means, what put us in these situations and where we may need to go, these become throwaway phrases which lose meaning or worst still have different meaning for each member of a team. Simply asking for people to share back their interpretations of what has been said and what they intend to do next can really help. Equally asking for reactions can help gage themes to inform follow up sense making.
Lessons from Sport
In a 2012 article published in Business Matters, Dean Williams (business coach and author of the book ‘Creating Grade A Business Relationships’) shared four Leadership Lessons from One of England Rugby’s Darkest Decades…
The first is Clarity: the need to share the common principle of clarity. Clarity in all that you do – communication, decision making etc, having a talented group of players (or employees) is not enough.
The second is world class decisions: indecision brings speculation and ambiguity, an unwelcome distractions. Something more recently seen in a footballing context with Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger:
“I created a lack of clarity within the dressing room with me not deciding (to stay or leave the club). The lack of a decisions created uncertainty in the players (and a 5th place finish to the 2016/17 season)”
The third is Trust: everyone must understand their role in achieving success (business or sport), team spirit, pride and respect are important success factors, without trust we don’t have these.
The fourth is Honesty: your teams (players/people) are your greatest assets, lose their support due to a fracturing level of openness and honesty and a breakdown of the collective effort will occur.
So team leaders providing clarity on the context, landscape and desired outcome for the teams you work with and the role of individuals in getting there is vital.
Here’s a check list set of questions that could help to support with ‘clarity’:
- What are we doing here (e.g. playing to win, development….)?
- Where is here, in relation to there (e.g. we are a mid table org)?
- Where are we headed (e.g. The desire is to be at the top of the table by x)?
- Why is this our desire (e.g. is it in reach, achievable, needed)?
- Whats our direction within the landscape (e.g. heading backwards)
- Who else is in this field of play (e.g. who are our key competitors)?
- Where are they (e.g. surrounding us and closing in)?
- What are they doing (e.g. that works/doesn’t work)?
- What may we do (e.g. find our minimum effective dose/marginal gain)?
- Who is responsible for pressing go?