How to Solve the Personal-Goal, Team-Goal Tension

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As a leader, how do you reconcile your drive for personal accomplishment with that of your desire to achieve team goals?

This week in Florida I have been connecting with our U.S. Global Leadership Summit host pastors, and this question has come up more than once. It’s simply an ever-present tension with which leaders must contend.

And the reason there is so much energy around this question is because getting this right is a leadership game-changer.

A few years ago in the locker room of a pro hockey team this tension was vividly played out.

It was late in the season and the team was battling for a playoff spot. At the same time, several players were closing in on individual point totals that would qualify them for performance bonuses.

After practice the coach gathered the team around and said to one of the players, “How many points do you need for your bonus?”

“7, coach,” came the reply.

The coach looked at another player. “And you?”

“9 points, coach,” he responded immediately.

The coach nodded and looked at the next player. “You?”

“5 points coach.”

The coach nodded and silently walked around the room. After a few minutes he looked back at the team and said quietly, “We are fighting for our playoff lives. Who can tell me how many wins we need to secure a playoff spot?”

Each player slowly cast his eyes to the floor. No one would look up. No one knew the answer.

“…and that, team,” the coach quietly concluded, “Is our biggest problem.”

There’s nothing wrong with individual performance goals. In fact, they’re very important. But the job of the leader is to help each person understand how their individual accomplishments fit in to the bigger picture.

Can you tell if the big picture is fading into the background?

Absolutely. Here are three of the biggest indicators.

1.  Your culture replaces collaboration with competition

Not all competition is unhealthy in your culture. But when it trumps collaboration and team work, it’s a sure sign the big picture needs to be reinforced.

2.  The team has little interest in celebrating group accomplishments

Watch the energy when the accomplishment of a team goal is being celebrated. Low energy tells you the big picture isn’t being embraced.

3.  Water cooler talk centers on individual accomplishments.

Again, individual accomplishments should be recognized. But if that’s all people are talking about you need to polish up the big picture for your team.

So keep the big picture front and center for your team.

That might be the most important picture you’ll ever paint.

How do you keep the big picture front and center?

 

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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