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“I” to “We:” 7 Steps to Gathering Your Team Around a Common Goal

Following these steps has enabled me to empower my employees and accomplish far-reaching goals, and can do the same for others across all industries. It’s what keeps successful businesses running.

I’ve said it many times, and I know I’m not alone: nobody in business gets anywhere without know how to build a great team. It’s the most important skill to have, and it translates across all industries–there aren’t any successes that happen in a vacuum. “No man is an island” was a phrase coined several centuries ago, and while prose poet John Donne may have never put a corporate task force together, he certainly knew what he was talking about back in 1624.

At its best, a team is a group of disparate minds acting as one. More realistically, it takes some time to bring a group of people together towards a common goal. Whether building a team to run your business, or a more short term project, it’s paramount to put these pieces together to generate the best outcomes for you and your organization.

These steps to building a great team follow what I like to call the “7 Characteristics of Culture.” I’ve observed and refined these rules through decades of entrepreneurship: seeing what works and what doesn’t over the 100+ businesses I’ve created and nurtured over the years. Following these factors has enabled me to empower my employees and accomplish far-reaching goals, and can do the same for others across all industries. It’s what keeps successful businesses running.

1. Make goals clear and accepted

It might sound redundant, but the primary key to rallying your team around a goal is being able to impart exactly what that goal is. Whether a purposefully gathered task force or a long-standing work group, every team needs to know exactly what their objectives are. If the idea that drives you is not fully articulated, there’s no room for the group to buy into it, and chaos reigns. Harvard research backs up the concept that the best driver of success is clear goal setting, and sharing your dreams with your team gives everyone the benefit of your ambition.

2. The right people making the right decisions

Not everyone is the head of the team, but everyone can be a decision maker. Delegating thoughtfully is a crucial part of motivating your team: it’s how things stay running smoothly, with those at the top of the org chart making the decisions they need to make, and those managers lower on the chain doing the same. The team might all be equal in importance, but being mindful of your hierarchy ensures that all messages and goals are disseminated properly.

3. Everyone is a positive contributor

A team responds well to being told how crucial they are to the company’s goals. Better yet, take the time to craft individualized messages for each member. I’m not asking you to be Tony Robbins, but part of getting everyone on the same page is reminding them of how valuable they are. Everyone from the C-suite to the janitorial staff is a positive contributor, and the better they understand that, the more they’ll rise to the occasion when the team needs them. Teamwork isn’t something that pops up every now and then in the workplace: it’s an everyday necessity. When your employees are shown how important they are, they’ll respond accordingly.

4. Conveying respect is the norm

Respect is a must: as the leader, the old cliche that you must give it in order to receive it is an everyday reality. Your team is comprised of talented people–let them do what they do best. Key to conveying respect is respecting their time: create opportunities for your employees to shine without giving in to the urge to micromanage. Oversight is one thing, but if you’re constantly forcing time constraints on them, you run the risk of losing their confidence, a negative feeling that can spread quickly.

5. Accountability, authority and responsibility are linked

Hand in hand with respect is accountability–there are few better ways to show respect than through holding team members responsible. Your actions will show them that, yes, they’re a valued member of the team, but if they’re not stepping up and pulling their weight, they’re letting the rest of the team down. This accountability goes for those up top as well: holding yourself accountable makes it possible to do the same for all in the organization. Remember you’re not untouchable.

6. Goals, roles, and procedures are in harmony

Staying on the same page is another must. Communication is the tool that makes this possible. Modern workplace messaging apps like Skype and Slack are wonderful for this, and individualized team chats maintain a sense of cohesion in addition to making instant discussions possible across all spaces. In an ideal world, your team is like one large organism, with every part in synapse-quick communication with one another. These ultra-convenient communication apps are the best way to replicate that in the everyday. While they won’t supplant face-to-face talks for the most important matters, they’re a great tool for keeping everyone on the same page.

7. A culture of We, not I

Gathering and motivating a team is essentially about one task: turning an “I” culture of self-fulfillment into a “we” culture where the greater good of the company is the guiding motivation. Effective leadership means bringing these two forces together, such that the workplace goals of the individual are interchangeable from those of the working team. With these seven steps any group can achieve a clear focus on the best characteristics of culture. Your team members will be able to fulfill their potential–for your company, and for themselves.

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