The CEO of a mission-critical organisation said to me at the end of a team strategy day I’d facilitated:

“I haven’t got it yet – the formula for how you get people to put the organisation’s interests above their own. I’m a scientist. I join one molecule of oxygen and two of hydrogen to get water. So what’s the formula for getting people more excited about working together than by themselves?”

If such a formula exists, it has to include factors that engage people as individuals. There is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ But there are two ‘I’s in organisation!

From research and practice, I suggest 5 factors for this equation:

  1. Establish clear purpose and shared meaning.
  2. Agree SMART ambitious goals.
  3. Define clear and diverse roles.
  4. Communicate clearly and frequently.
  5. Make feedback and review frequent, transparent and fair.

1. Establish clear purpose and shared meaning. This tells all team members what they exist to achieve as a collective. It brings focus to a collective result that is greater than what any one team member can achieve alone. It promises a share in greater rewards than any individual could attain operating singularly. And it paints a big-picture future worth working for.

2. Agree SMART ambitious goals. Involve the whole team to set team goals that optimise buy-in and include all perspectives. Collective goals clarify individual accountability and where collaboration between multiple team members is required. SMART team goals identify specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound interdependencies.

3. Define clear and diverse roles. Ensure that overlaps in roles are enough to help people connect and trust each other, but not enough to result in much duplication. Define roles to ensure inclusion of the diversity that different team members bring. Affirm the differences. Use the difference between individuals as a source of growth for all, and of creativity for the team.

4. Communicate clearly and frequently. Especially in fast-paced climates, where multiple cultures, ambiguity and interdependency abounds, healthy workplaces give people a good sense of where they are – against own goals, team goals, the organisation’s vision and the competitive environment. Even just saying ‘I don’t know any more than you do’ increases dialogue and builds trust.

5. Make feedback and review frequent, transparent and fair. Double and triple loop learning lies at the heart of innovation and a learning culture. Both require strong reflection. Effective review feeds innovation as it celebrates and leverages success and identifies performance break-through. Effective feedback feeds learning if balanced, objective, observed, specific & time-bound (BOOST).

So … how about this as a formula for teamwork:


It would be great to know how you approach the above five factors. Get in touch to let us know how this is helping you address the opportunities and challenges posed by Brexit and other global-market seismic shifts. We wish you tremendous success!


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