Individual goals matter, but if they cause you to lose sight of the big picture, you have a big problem.
Because when people lose sight of the big picture, when the natural gravitational pull towards self-interest takes over, the team will lose focus, momentum and eventually it will lose out on whatever goal you are chasing.
The importance of the big picture was vividly demonstrated a few years ago in the locker room of a pro hockey team. 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 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.
Here are three of the biggest indicators that individual goals have replaced team goals.
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.