How to Get Everyone on Your Team Rowing in the Same Direction

Ever get frustrated with your employees/staff because they’re not all on the same page? Chances are you have—in fact, every leader I’ve ever met has felt that way at one time or another. So, here’s my question for you, who’s fault is that?

Now, I ask that question, not to be mean, but because I think it gets right to the heart of the problem. In other words, I frequently hear leaders complain about their people and how they’re all doing their own thing, they’e not in alignment, they’re not executing the strategic plan, etc. But I rarely hear leaders say, “And it’s my fault.”

Yet isn’t that the essence of what you and I are supposed to do as leaders? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who set the direction and cast a compelling vision to our people? Aren’t we supposed to pick the right people and coach/equip them to make sure they can successfully complete the mission? Aren’t we supposed to motivate and inspire our teams to produce great results? Aren’t we supposed to ensure that everyone and everything is in alignment so we can complete the plan we set? Absolutely!

So, if our teams aren’t all rowing in the same direction, who’s responsibility is that?

Now, if you’re ready and willing to pick up that mantle of responsibility, may I encourage you to engage in a couple of behaviors that can help ensure that your team will keep rowing in the same direction.

1. Make sure you have a crystal clear picture of your preferred future in your own head

Back in my old preaching days, we had a saying, “If it’s a mist in the pulpit, it’s a fog in the pew,” meaning that if the preacher (read, “Leader”) isn’t clear about what they’re saying, there’s no way anyone else will. Yet when I ask business and other leaders what they want to accomplish this year, you’d be surprised at how unclear most of their answers are.

When I ask, ‘So, what’s your vision for the next year (or three years)?” I rarely get a clear answer. When I ask, “Okay, well, what do you want to be true of your business (or organization) by 12/31 of this year?” I usually get back bits and pieces of some things they’d like to have happen … but it’s rarely ever a very clear concise picture.

So, if it’s a mist in their mind, is there any wonder it’s a fog in their people’s minds?

Basically, if you can’t say right off the top of your head, “Our vision for this year is … and the top three things we plan to accomplish are 1. 2. 3.” then you know there’s no way that all of your people are going to be headed in the same direction. So make sure it’s crystal clear in your head.

2. Make sure you cast that vision (and hopefully it’s a compelling vision) over and over and over again

Why? Because people leak vision. Within 48 hours of you sharing your vision, virtually everyone you shared your vision with has forgotten it. That’s why I say to leaders like you, all the time, you can’t overcast vision.

In other words, you should leak vision into every conversation, every message, every letter, every meeting, etc. Your people should be sick and tired of you saying, “This is where we’re headed!” And then you should cast it again.

Remember, as soon as your people go back to their work (after you’ve cast your vision), they’re minds return to what they have to accomplish. They’re looking at their to do list, not your vision. They’re focused on their next action, their next email, their next call, their next project, etc. The last thing most of your people are thinking about is where your company is headed.

And that’s the problem. When people start focusing on just their next activity, they start heading in different directions—in most cases, not intentionally. It just happens. And 10 tasks down the list, they’re headed in a completely different direction than they were supposed to.

Which is why you have to keep casting vision and reminding your people where they’re going. After all, isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing as a leader?

3. Make sure you create short, simple, easy metrics to keep everyone focused on heading in the same direction

Some management maxims aren’t worth remembering, but some are. This one is, “What get’s inspected, get’s done!” Unfortunately, most businesses don’t have a short, simple, and easy to keep set of metrics that everyone can see all the time—and that’s a problem.

I’ve worked with businesses that will go over 50+ metrics during their meetings (which really isn’t operational). While I’ve worked with other businesses that haven’t kept any—and both are wrong. Note: This doesn’t mean that a business itself shouldn’t have 50 metrics because different parts of the business are measuring different things. I’m talking about the business as a whole. What are the key metrics that the company, as a whole, broadcasts?

If you want to keep everyone on your team rowing in the same direction, then you may want to keep everyone apprised of a very small set of metrics (maybe three to five max). Even better, if you can get everyone focused on one issue and keep one metric in front of them for a period of time (let’s say a quarter), that’s even better.

For example, if your people aren’t asking for referrals, you could make “Referrals asked” as the main metric and keep it up on a board for all to see until it turns around. Or if your team’s average response rate is too long, you could make that the key metric. Or, if you’re not generating enough leads, “Leads” or “Leads generated” could become the number.

Whatever metrics you want to use, my encouragement, if you want to keep everyone rowing in the same direction, is to make sure that number is small (maximum of five), otherwise people get overwhelmed and the sheer number of numbers causes them to get that glazed look in their eyes.

4. Make sure you enforce the vision and hold people accountable to being in alignment

This is where the rubber meets the road. After coaching leaders for a couple of decades now, I’ve watched way too many leaders tolerate poor performance or lack of alignment or disregard for direction or bad attitudes or lack of followership, etc.—and for way too long. In essence, they’ve created the culture that they don’t like—a culture where it’s okay for their people to not be alignment or to disregard orders or to not follow through or to not execute on the strategic plan, etc.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply cast vision and say, “This is the direction.” Real leadership always involves real management—ensuring compliance and alignment. Note: I’m not advocating being a jerk here. Management is about setting expectations and coaching, it’s about encouragement and providing resources. etc. But it’s also about ensuring that everyone is in alignment with the vision and culture of the business.

And when a leader tolerates one person doing their own thing, or one person disregarding the vision or one person heading in a different direction—all without consequence, that’s where the whole system breaks down.

In other words, if you want to make sure everyone on your team is rowing in the same direction, you have to make sure  everyone is. And if they’re not, then you need to make sure you bring them back in alignment. No one else can really do that. That’s your job. You’re the leader.

So, how are you doing? Do you have a crystal clear vision of where you’re going? Can you quickly list the top three things for this year (or quarter)? Are you casting vision every day? Is it compelling? Do you have a short set of metrics (no more than five) that you’re using to keep everyone focused on the plan for this year? And are you quick to call people out who are out of alignment? Or do you tend to tolerate non-compliance way too long?

If you want to keep your team rowing in the same direction, I’d encourage you to start with these four ideas and then build on them. You’ll be glad you did!

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some additional ideas of how to keep teams headed in the same direction, make sure you add your ideas in the comments section below (or click HERE if you’re reading this by RSS or email).

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