I need to get everyone working on the same goal.

A consultant met with the fifteen-member executive team of a large corporation recently. They wanted to find out why they couldn’t seem to reach their most important corporate goals. They had hoped for company-wide engagement, but no one seemed focused on that shared vision.

The consultant asked, “Do your people know exactly what the top goals of the organization are?” The leaders were convinced that they did, because they had communicated those goals clearly and repeatedly in meetings, memos, and media. “Definitely,” they said.

The consultant said, “Can I try a little experiment?” He asked each executive to pull out a piece of paper and write down the three top goals of the organization, then collected the sheets and read the responses aloud.

No one had written down the same three goals…and these were the people who had crafted them. It became obvious if they were unclear, their people would be even less inclined to know.

It’s a common problem. If people have different ideas of their company or team’s goal, they lose the energy that comes from a team working precisely together to move toward a clear, common goal.

As a leader, you have two main tasks in achieving team alignment around a goal:

  1. Make sure everyone knows exactly what the goal is with precision.
  2. Make sure everyone works together to reach that goal.

It sounds simple: You’re here, and you want to get there. Get the whole team to work together to make that happen.

Obviously, there’s a lot more involved. But if you master those two foundational steps of goal alignment, you’re on the fast track to success.

1. Communicate the goal clearly.

Whether your team goal has filtered down from the top or if you’re crafting it with your team, get their input right from the beginning. The more of a say they have in where you’re headed, the more ownership they’ll feel.

Get everyone on the same page with a “clarity session.” Ask some key questions around purpose without having predetermined answers for them to find. Let them share their thoughts around questions like these:

  • Someone asks you, “What does your company do?” What would you say?
  • How do we do it?
  • Who do we do it for?
  • What value do we provide?

Then, explore with clarifying questions and capture their ideas. There are no right or wrong answers; you’re just trying to come to a team understanding. That provides the foundation for talking about a specific goal because they can see the context. Communicate like this often to fine-tune each goal as things change in the process.

2. Get the team working together.

Your team will be more excited about the goal if the “Why” is clearly explained, and they get to decide the best ways to achieve it. They’ll stay engaged if they feel like they’re doing something that makes a difference, not just making money for the company.

Present the goal as you understand it, then work together to decide how it can matter for this team. Get everyone’s input, including the quiet people who think deeply but don’t share quickly.  Then let the team build the systems that they can use to reach the goal together.

The result? They’ll be more energized about reaching the goal when they’re energized about the process of teamwork they’ve created.

As the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Start with these two basics, and you’ll find collaboration in the journey—with everyone working together on a goal they all understand.