(This post was first published here on August 8, 2016.)
Imagine you are running a race. All the runners gather together, stretching muscles, bouncing on the balls of their feet to warm up, drinking a last few sips of water, popping in their earbuds. The loudspeaker fires up to give the final warning, the starting gun goes off, and all the runners take off, but in this race, there is no marked course. The race officials believe that the course the runners should take is obvious. Why mark it? They emailed the course to the runners a few months ago. The runners all do their best, but as the race continues, different people turn off on different roads, each one sure they are following the correct course. The race officials are baffled as a few runners trickle into the finish line, some right away, some hours later, and a whole lot not at all. Didn’t the runners read that email outlining the course?
Of course this analogy is ridiculous, but it also makes a point: Too often in our work we either move ahead with our day-to-day work without thinking about the larger purpose and vision for our team, or we take the time to establish team goals, but do a terrible job communicating them. Either way, our team is running without a defined course. When this happens, we tend to do a lot of work, but not really get anywhere significant.
You might be wondering what we mean when we say “common goals.” It’s as simple as a shared idea of what you are working toward at that moment. But as a leader, you know that those goals come from a clear understanding of your team’s (or organization’s) purpose (Why you exist), and your current vision (How you are currently living into your purpose). Common goals do very little good if they are not born out of this larger purpose and vision.
I’ll use Leading by DESIGN as an example:
- Our purpose is to help West Michigan become the Silicon Valley of leadership—a place where people can’t help but wonder what’s going on here because the quality of our leaders is so great.
- Our vision is to take 1,000 leaders through LEAD 365 by 2027, making them amazing leaders worth following who create clarity around purpose, vision, and values; and who build the best teams.
- One of many strategies is our weekly blog post, which is designed to continue to challenge and support you, our alumni, some of the first of those 1,000 leaders.
As a team, we understand our purpose, vision, and strategies, and those become our common goals. We believe in the work we are doing, and put a lot of energy into this effort. We are running a clearly defined course, together.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have a clear understanding of your team’s purpose and vision? Do you have common goals you are working toward? I’m sure you and your team are running each day, but are you all running in the same direction? If not, it might be time to step away from the race for a bit and clarify for what purpose you are running.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment, when Jeff will share his thoughts on why commitment is needed for a truly great team.
Until then, lead on!