How to align your team around a shared mission

The true power of team collaboration is not about strength in numbers. Yes, more people should, in theory, get more done. But, if a multitude of individuals are working separately without combining their talents together, a lot of potential will be wasted.

How to align your team around a shared mission

The key to successful collaboration is when an entire team remains in stride together. The effort of individuals is multiplied when everyone plays to their strengths to contribute to something bigger than themselves.

Challenges in finding alignment

In order to reach this idealistic scenario, a company has to be excellent at communicating the big picture. From the top of the organization down to the entry-level employees, everyone needs to share a mission, language and set of values to operate as a team.

Reaching this level is extremely challenging for a growing company. When you have a small team of fewer than 10 employees, it is much easier to keep everyone aligned. But as the team expands, the complications multiply.  Reaching alignment requires more than posting your core values on the website.

As the company expands into multiple departments and focus areas, the challenge of creating silos becomes more pressing. Making matters even more challenging is the rise in remote work. Even if you have core values and mission statements plastered all over your walls, the remote team is not seeing them every day.

To get the most of your collaboration, you need an intentional strategy for team alignment.

Repeat core principles clearly and often

Leaders are responsible for creating a vision for their teams. But this alone is not enough. The key to a successful vision is to communicate the mission so that everyone buys into it.

For a leader, the mission is top of mind constantly. But the team has their own sets of priorities and interpretation of the company’s vision. If you lay out a mission one time for your team, that’s not enough. The team will need to hear it repeatedly over a period of time to fully understand it.

A good practice is to decide on your company mission, values and principles, and reinforce them constantly in different ways during meetings and conversations. It may even feel annoying or over the top, but is necessary to get everyone speaking the same language.

Create a meeting rhythm

In a given day or week, it’s easy to get lost in projects. Your team will likely have their heads down staying focused on their projects.

In the day-to-day effort of work, it’s common to lose sight of the bigger picture. You have to focus on the task at hand and keep moving forward. This is not a bad thing, but it should be complemented by periodic “resets” to zoom out and look at how this work fits with the bigger picture.

A good practice for maintaining balance with the high-level mission and day-to-day tasks is to have a company-wide meeting rhythm to ensure everyone is focused on the right things.

One way to do this is to meet annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly and have daily standups.

These can take many different forms, but the goal is to have benchmarks to set goals and then review and reset. Your team may have quarterly goals, which can be broken into monthly targets. This provides something tangible to review during a meeting.

The best part about these meetings is you have an opportunity to reiterate the big picture mission of the company. The team not only has the opportunity to review what they’ve accomplished, but step back and see how their work ties into the bigger picture.

Employees don’t want to know what to do, they want to know why it matters and how it contributes to the company.

Team collaboration in goals and projects

The work you do should fit in with the context of your team goals. Using a tool like Karbon, your team can see exactly what projects are moving and how each individual’s efforts contribute.

Keeping transparency in your work within the context of a greater goal prevents isolated work that misses the mark. Rather than each individual creating their own priorities and to-do lists, teams should have integrated checklists to surround projects with team collaboration.

This concept is closely tied to the meeting rhythm because the meetings should also revolve around the projects. Whether you are completing a meeting to start new projects, or discussing progress on a current task, you need a single source of truth to come back to.

A practical way to achieve collaboration in tasks is to implement OKRs (Objectives & Key Results). With OKRs, the goals for individuals, teams, departments and the company as a whole can all be aligned. Your work will be measured in relation to those goals.

The OKR method reduces the chance for you to feel isolated or disconnected in your work. Now, work objectives are captured in a singular place with real-time transparency and feedback.

Share success stories

It’s common in business and life to always look forward. As soon as something happens, you have to be ready for the next thing.

If your team set a big quarterly goal and you nailed it, a tempting next step would be to say, “Well let’s set an even bigger goal for next quarter!”

Be careful with that approach. You can quickly burn out your teammates if you don’t take a step back to acknowledge their efforts.

A good way to reinforce the habits and efforts you want is to highlight success stories. If you hit a big goal, what’s a creative way to celebrate? By celebrating a victory you create goodwill and also create motivation for continuing to excel.

This is important for big wins, but also small ones too. Sometimes communicating your vision and values can come across as vague when listed out but powerful when connected to an example.

Is one of your goals to empower your clients to do X? Try to find an example of an employee who helped a client achieve X and share the success story with the team. Now you’re highlighting the type of work you want and reinforcing the company vision at the same time.

Aligning the team

Whether your team is all in the same building or spread across the world, the key to success is making sure everyone is on the same page working toward the same goals. Creating this atmosphere has a lot less to do with location or listing out core values and more to do with day-to-day communication.

Lay out your vision. Share it often. Then break out goals and always connect to the vision. If you then meet regularly and continue to explain why everyone is doing what they are doing, your team will maximize their potential and maintain alignment.