Your team’s (or organisation, church, and even personal) mission gives clarity to your direction, informs your strategies, and forms the basis of all your critical decisions.
The mission statement spells out your mission so that stakeholders (the team leader, team members, partners, target audience, customers, etc.) knows what you do. For yourself and your team, it serves as a reminder to help you stay on course. For others, it helps to differentiate you from other teams or organisations.
As I work with teams during the past 20 years, I often come across mission statements that are either so vague that they don’t tell me anything useful, or are so generic that they could just as well be the mission statement of another team!
These vague or generic mission statements are practically useless.
Would your team members look at your mission statement and know exactly what the team is trying to accomplish? Would your partners or target audience understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish when they look at your mission statement? Would they even recognise that it’s your mission statement?
If you are crafting a new mission statement, or your current mission statement needs improvement, here are some tips to help you do so.
“What is your team’s mission?” I asked the team members in the room.
They recited their mission statement, verbatim.
“Great! What does it mean?” I asked again.
What followed was several different explanations about the team’s mission. And “Oh, I thought this meant…”, “Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be…”, “I don’t think that’s part of what we do…”, etc.
This wasn’t an isolated incident.
A number of teams I have worked with over the years had a similar problem. Either team members had a different understanding of the team’s mission or, worse, they could not articulate their mission.
Another problem I encountered quite often was having mission statements that are so generic that lots of things could be considered part of the mission, or that it could easily be someone else’s mission!
If your team is not clear about its mission, how are you going to achieve it?
A client recently took over a team at work. It wasn’t a new team. The organisation went through some restructuring, and his boss asked him to lead this restructured team.
Since this wasn’t a new team, they already have existing roles and responsibilities, along with some problems and baggage.
My client’s first action was to try and sort through the problems and figure out ways to resolve them. Several weeks later, he was still at it, and the problems don’t seem to be nearing resolution.
One thing he was trying to do was to redistribute the roles and responsibilities; uneven work-load was a major problem in the team. The reality, though, was that everyone thought their responsibilities are important, and it was difficult to prioritize and even decide who should now do what!
Have you just started leading a team?
It is tempting for new team leaders to jump into solving problems and getting things done. After all, who doesn’t want their team to perform well?
Yet by doing so, we risk making decisions that are either inconsequential or, worse, wrong!
“We know it has to be done, but it’s hard to do so without it being perceived as personal!” said Jess.
Do you occasionally face a similar situation?
In Jess’ case, it was just a simple thing: removing a former member of the team from the team’s chat group. But it was hard because they had a good relationship with the former team member.
Eventually, they created a new chat group (sans the former team member) and used it in place of the old one. I suspect it might have been easier if they didn’t have a good relationship with the former team member.
This “difficulty” shows up in other situation too, for example:
Starting the meeting on-time when one of the key participants has yet to arrive,
Getting someone to start or stop doing something,
Calling out someone for unacceptable behaviour.
We don’t want to offend another person, and much less wanting the other person to think that it’s personal. We don’t want to be the bad guy!
Yet by not acting, we allow the team’s interaction, perhaps even effectiveness, be compromised.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. There is an easy way!
Are you trying to craft a set of norms for your team?
A well-crafted set of team norms is a great way to shape your team’s interactions and collaborations, allowing them to function more effectively and achieve greater impact.
If this is your first time crafting team norms, you might be wondering where to start. The process of crafting them is not complicated. To help you get started, I have listed some team norms for your consideration.