In my recent article, “Resolutions for Leading Your Team Better in 2023,” I shared 4 resolutions that you could work on to help you excel as a leader this year. In this post, we’ll explore the first goal in detail: Focus on Team Clarity.
As a leader, you have a vision for your team, which includes what you want to achieve, where you want to be, and the path to get there. Strong leadership involves translating this vision into clear guidance for your team. By doing so, you boost your team’s chances of success, making it crucial for you to reflect on your role in fostering team clarity.
Understanding team clarity and why it’s important
Creating clarity provides your team members a playbook to follow to help them work cohesively, focus better, and ultimately provide a consistently positive experience for them and your customers. A simple way to define clarity in team leadership is in the context of a foundation consisting of four primary areas: Purpose, Values, Goals, and Roles.
Why are you in business in the first place? Is it to help people? If so, how, and what group of people? Whatever your reason, your team needs to understand clearly. When you define your purpose, you attract others who care about the same purpose and give their best to help achieve it.
What is important to you, and what should be important to the members of your team? How should your team behave? Defining values should drive your hiring and performance review process, but they also serve to remind team members how to act when they are faced with making decisions.
What (specifically) is the team trying to accomplish this year? How about this quarter, month, week or day? What about 3, 5, or 10 years from now? Your long-term goals should be well defined so that your team can zoom in and define their priorities for the short term.
Otherwise, your team will react to the demands that are in front of them, and in a year may find that they haven’t gotten anywhere, or at least haven’t gotten where they intended.
Roles fit into the team goals by defining how each person on the team should contribute to the whole. We all have job descriptions and understand our jobs, but don’t underestimate the benefit of being diligent, even obsessive, about strengthening role clarity for your team. You want your team members to stay in their lanes so that they don’t step on each others’ toes and they give 100% of their focus to their piece of the whole.
Strategies for improving team clarity
If anything you have read thus far has made you think, “Gee, I guess I could do a better job with this,” start there. Building the foundation (purpose, values, goals, roles) takes some time, but it is well worth the investment of time. If you read this far and thought, “We haven’t written this stuff down because our team members just know – it’s in our heads,” I would challenge you to go through the exercise and write it down anyway (it should be easy if you already know it). Putting it in writing will make sure that everyone is looking at exactly the same playbook, and also enables you to quickly tell the public what is important to your company.
If you already have a strong foundation, here are some tips to help you get even better.
Keep it Simple
Simply stated, keep it simple. Your team foundation should be concise and specific. Every member of your team should be able to memorize all four parts and should be able to recite them on command. You may say, “Well, it’s already pretty simple, my people just have bad memories,” I think you can probably make it even simpler.
If your team can memorize the four foundational areas, they will have a guiding light to tell them why they are working and how they should behave and make decisions. You may find it helpful to create frameworks to help your team memorize it, like abbreviations, visualizations, or analogies. For example, KiteTech’s Values are: (1) Relentlessly Solve Problems, (2) Embrace Teamwork, (3) Deliver Extraordinary Client Service, (4) Project Positivity, (5) Always Ask “Why?”, (6) Think Like an Owner, and (7) Honor Commitments. These values have been defined and unchanged for years, but they have been put in a very deliberate order because it creates and acronym that spells “RED PATH”. We say, “At KiteTech, we follow the RED PATH”, and it helps our team tremendously to be able to memorize and name our core values.
Use Multiple Forms of Communication
Your foundation should be well-defined and consistent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate it in various ways. Different people receive communication best in different ways; some people need to read something in order for it to sink in, while others need to see visuals. Some people live and breathe out of their email inbox, while others pay better attention to instant messaging. You should also communicate it verbally so that it becomes a common part of the team dialogue and banter.
There is no such thing as too much clarity for your team. You should take every opportunity you can find to communicate your team’s four foundational areas, in many different ways. A good way to gauge whether you are communicating enough is to ask your team members to do their best impression of you. Seriously, try it. If you have well at communicating team clarity, they should be able to quote you without thinking (they have memorized your foundation – isn’t that what you want?).
It may be a good idea to start all of your regular team meetings by doing a quick review of your foundation. (To be clear, I am suggesting reading and stating it, NOT making changes to it. In fact, this should virtually never change, except in the context of setting new goals to keep your team moving forward).
Ask Team Members to Explain Each Other’s Goals
I stated before that your team roles should be defined well enough that every members stays in their lane. However, it is still important for team members to be familiar with each other’s goals to help them really understand the big picture. It also is a good test of how well you have created clarity for your team. Ask one of your department heads to explain one of your other department’s goals. If they can do it (accurately), that is a sign of good team clarity. Now ask one of your other department heads to explain it. Did they explain it accurately, and in the same words? Not only does this strengthen your team clarity, but it can also strengthen the relationships between the members of your team by exposing them to each other’s world of work.
On a successful team, the power of the team is greater than the sum of its parts. Yes, a huge part of building a successful team is finding capable team members who are good at what they do. But a talented team cannot reach its full potential if they don’t have team clarity and a common vision.
As a leader, it is essential that you effectively communicate this clarity and ensure that everyone is aligned with the team’s objectives. By doing so, you’ll create an environment where each team member feels motivated to give their best and you’ll pave the way for your team’s ongoing success.