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!
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.
Team norms exist, whether you like it or not. Any team that works together develops a certain set of norms over time.
These organically developed norms, which are often unspoken, help team members know how to behave and interact with one another. While some norms help the team function more effectively, other norms might erode the team’s effectiveness.
One norm (which I liked) from several teams I worked with gives team members the freedom to voice out differing opinion, even if those opinions are contrary to the team leader’s opinion. One norm I often observe (and don’t like) is that of keeping quiet during meetings because “it’s not going to make any difference!”
As a team leader, if I could have a set of constructive team norms that help my team work more effectively together, and not have any norms that might negatively impact the team, I would have a better team. I would then have more time to lead and empower the team and spend less time dealing with misunderstandings and mismatch of expectations.
Leading a team is not an easy task; that is if you want to lead effectively!
A leader has many responsibilities: setting direction, formulating strategies, planning, aligning stakeholders, motivating, being a spokesperson, being a change agent, developing team members, etc. Unfortunately, we can’t do all of them well; even a super talented person has his limit.
Fortunately, we don’t have to do everything on our own.
One way to ensure all the leadership responsibilities are well taken care of is to have a smaller group within the team, a core team, who can share the load with you. Some might call this a leadership team, or an inner circle, but the idea is to have a smaller group of coworkers within the larger team to help you lead effectively. Their role is not just to share your leadership responsibilities, but also to keep you focused on what’s important.
As a team leader, I would always have a core team to help me lead well. When I was an Operations Director (many years ago) with more than 20 people on my team, I had a core team of three people (including myself) who helped ensure that the team functioned effectively. When I was overseeing my church’s youth ministry, I had a leadership team of eight senior members of the ministry, and from that eight I had a core team of four leaders. Even when I was leading a smaller team, I would usually have another person who would work with me more closely.
The size of the core team might vary, but I will always have a core team.
Having a core team is not an uncommon practice. Having an effective core team, though, requires some careful considerations.
The word “Team” means different things to different people.
When I work with team leaders and their teams, I often encounter different notions of what the “team” really is. One team leader may use the word to refer generally to everyone who works under him, while another might refer to a specific group of people.
Even within a team, each member might have a different understanding of what the “team” is; this might even be different from the team leader’s understanding!
One leader I worked with kept saying that his “team” was not working together, and as a result, he had to do most of the work. As we talked, it became clear that he had a very different idea of what the team is, compared with members of the “team”; in fact, some members of the “team” didn’t even know that there was a “team”!
Getting a team to move towards fulfilling its goals involve numerous decisions.
But right from the get-go, there is one important decision that a leader needs to make. This decision will shape the leader and the team in a profound way. It will affect how he or she leads, how the team interact with the leader, the culture of the team, etc.
When I first started leading a team, it took me no time to realise that my responsibilities go beyond just making sure that my team delivers. I was responsible for the team’s direction, plan, budget, tasks, morale, discipline, motivation, development, internal relationships, external relationships, etc.
I could not possibly do everything, even though I was responsible for them. My strengths and personality allow me to do certain things well but would struggle at other things. When I looked at other leaders, I begin to realise that leadership looks different on different people, and I can’t just copy what another leader does.
If I want to lead well, I need to make an important decision.