Do you have individuals on your team who seem to have difficulty working together? Do you manage multiple teams that constantly seem to be competing rather than collaborating? You’ve tried encouraging them and have even used an activity outside of work to get them to work better together, but nothing seems to be working. Often, teams or individuals believe that they are in competition with each other and, as leaders, we need to remove the win/lose dynamic if we want them to truly be a team, creating a superordinate goal might be your next step.
Superordinate goals are goals that can only be achieved by a group working together – they can’t be accomplished by individuals or teams working independently.
The most effective superordinate goals often start with a crisis or an urgent task that requires multiple people or teams to work together. In this case, share your desired outcome for achieving the goal with all participants and point out that the only way for the group to succeed is to work together. Absent a crisis, look for a goal that will transform the organization or allow several team members to work on areas of passion. As an example, what are the biggest pain points for the team(s) and can we eliminate them? The goal must make enough difference to make working together worth the effort. If you decide to engage your team(s) in setting superordinate goals, be sure to pick only one or two goals that will make a difference.
As you are working with your team(s) on a superordinate goal, here are a few reflection questions for you as a leader to consider.
- What role did you play in creating a division between individuals or teams? While not intentional, leaders often create unintended consequences by encouraging competition, not changing the corporate reward structure to reward desired behaviors, or showing favoritism by having our “go to” people.
- Are people who work for you afraid to fail? What has been your reaction when people make mistakes? Do you thank them for bringing it to your attention then use it as a coaching opportunity? Especially when setting tough goals, we need to allow for mistakes and find ways to discuss them collectively with the objective being to learn from each other.
- When setbacks do occur, are you willing to adjust the goal? It’s typically best to work with the team to determine if an adjustment is necessary and to have a common understanding of why the goal needs to be changed.
- Do you hold your team accountable for achieving the goal? If so, how? Some leaders have been known to ask how things are going, then reacting poorly if things are not. The better solution would be to get to the root cause of the issues, find solutions and continue to follow up to ensure success. If you project a positive attitude of accountability, the team will frequently start self-monitoring and emulate the behavior.
How do you need to change your behavior to reach your desired outcomes?
As you resolve to evolve this year, it is also a good idea to think about how you can help your team evolve into a higher functioning team.