There is a half-truth in organizations that undermines the performance of countless teams. It goes something like this: Every member of the team should have accountability for a specific goal. The truth is, all great teams focus on achieving results; goals are good, but individual goals are a weak substitute for shared goals.
Stop and think about what makes a team work. The collective energy, creativity, experience, intellect, passion and persistence make the difference. When team members have only individual goals, several outcomes can be anticipated.
Silos – People working in isolation is rarely a good thing. It's certainly not the ideal environment to build a team. Silos insulate people and ideas. Silos drain energy from people and organizations. Silos prevent an organization from reaching its full potential. When all you have are individual goals, you’re building silos.
Self-focus – When we, as leaders, are focused, we are hard to distract. Our ability to focus becomes a curse when it causes us to miss the needs and contributions of others. When we are pursuing a personal goal, a ME goal, we can easily forget others even exist. This is not the behavior that creates great teams.
Small Thinking – If you’re part of a team and all you have is your goal(s), your world is fairly small… and ultimately, your thinking follows. You’re not trying to help the team win, you’re thinking about how YOU can win. The best leaders I know have an enterprise mindset; they are thinking bigger than most, not smaller. Individual goals in isolation war against this way of thinking.
Contrast these outcomes with the benefits of pursuing Shared Goals…
Synergy – The big idea behind the team concept is we’re smarter together than we are individually. Shared goals tap into the strength of the team. Our shared goals create a gravitational pull towards each other. The result: greater results!
Support – When it’s every person for himself, you don’t really have a nurturing, all for one and one for all, environment. When you’re working together to accomplish something bigger than yourself, you want to help others along the way. You want the team to win. This attitude contributes greatly to the desire to support your teammates.
Mutual Accountability – When we’re working together to accomplish our goals, we’re more willing to hold each other accountable. Accountability is a good thing. All great teams have become comfortable with giving the gift of accountability – not in a punitive sense - more of a “we’re going to help each other so we can win” mindset.
Individual goals are not bad. Many great teams will employ individual goals as part of their strategy. However, the outstanding teams win together and lose together – the best always pursue shared goals.[GLS_Shield]