Monday, May 7, 2012

Team Loyalty, Part 2: How's Your Alignment?

In this week's Manager Mondays post, we're continuing to explore ways to build team loyalty.  This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1 was posted  on April 30th.

Are you sending mixed messages?  

Last week we talked about how a team leader can build team loyalty through consistent, intentional messaging about that team's purpose and distinct assets.  That's a great way to help a group feel inspired, unified, and awesome.  But it comes with a warning: 

A team's sense of mission must always be in sync with the greater mission.  

Does your leadership put your team at odds with the company line?  You as team leader need to regularly, verbally align your team's purpose with the Big Purpose of your organization.  If you don't, your team might absorb your "We're awesome!" messaging and add on, in an unspoken sneer:  "... and they're not."

Leaders must not allow team loyalty to become tribal rivalry.  

The truth is, tribal warfare within your organization already exists.  It's a natural outgrowth of competition for resources.  Which department gets the extra head count during a hiring freeze?  Who has to release funds over to another group's hurting project?  Where's the most premium office space, and who gets to occupy it?  

If resentments like these aren't brewing right alongside your crew's daily coffee pods, yours is a stifled environment indeed.  Human nature loves to pout "It's not fair" -- and the everyday business of doing business always gives employees plenty of grievances to gripe about.

You'll never be able to seal off some sources of family squabbling. But that's the point --through it all, everyone has to remain family.  Regrettably, in some companies, the family is breaking up, disassembled in part by mixed messages from misbehaving management. 

Don't let that be you.  Hear your team's cries. Sympathize. Roll your eyes.  But also realize: you are the one who needs to keep your team inside the company compound. 

Which brings us to:

> Building Team Loyalty, Part Two:  Talk constantly about how your group's purpose connects with the overall company mission.  

As we've stated above, the danger of having a healthy, well-articulated team purpose is that it may start to override, or compete with, other departments' purposes.   Can you preempt that possibility?  Yes -- by always linking your group's contribution to overall company goals.  Here's how:

1.  Tie in the corporate message.  Which great products or services are the mainstays of company pride?  Make sure they're referenced in your team communications.  Did the founders leave you with an inspiring history or legacy?  Refer to it.  Is there a tag line in the new marketing campaign?  Quote it.  Does a distinct brand identity set you apart from competitors?  Mine it. Use it.  Celebrate it.  

Above all, if your organization has a mission statement, memorize it, hang it on your office wall,  and relate it to your every one of your team endeavors.  And, speaking of which...

2.  Keep the company's main thing your main thing.  Update your people whenever executive management sets new business objectives and targets. Refer to them explicitly and regularly.  Challenge your team to think about how their tasks relate to current corporate priorities.  How does their work move the needle?  Look for ways to loop in formal values or ethics statements whenever they're even marginally relevant to the discussion. All of this will help your tribe act, and feel, in unity with the other tribes they do business with every day.  And when that greater unity is threatened...

3.  Frame interdepartmental squabbles as transient struggles necessary to achieve the big mission. Don't let your troops see you as a sniper in conflict other managers. As situations arise, allow everyone to talk about issues openly, but also state clearly that the team policy is to get along.   Explain that it's your job to fight for the resources your team needs to accomplish its part of the mission; it's their job to take the mission to the front line and execute it with their colleagues from other departments.  Craft your communications to control conflict --  not create, condone or continue it.  Let your direct reports see you going after the big company win, not the small departmental score.

In the long run, your super team can succeed only to the degree that it "plays well with others" in your corporate kindergarten. When you deliberately align your team's mission with the overall mission, you help your people form alliances and win accolades.   By doing so,they can position themselves (and you) for greater personal growth and professional opportunity.   

Bottom line:  You want your team to be less tribal, and more global.  So message accordingly

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