Part of a blog series about the culture and values at BroadSoft.
I’m an operator by nature and I’ve spent the better part of my career helping companies and teams optimize their processes, programs, and structures for better outcomes. Based on my experience, in order to achieve results, particularly those that are transformational, you have to have a shared understanding of what success looks like -- a North Star that you’re going after, together. But having a common goal alone isn’t enough. Here are four tips on how to set your sights on common goals:
Share the vision.
Having a shared vision is the beginning. I’m a big believer in "do what you say, say what you do." To me, it’s fundamental to developing mutual trust and achieving desired results. No one department can do it alone. There are always dependencies, and as leaders you have to learn to work through others as much as you have to effectively work with each other. Your ability to influence is based on your ability to understand someone else’s perspective and how they are going to drive towards the same result. It comes down to establishing a mutual understanding and respect for your collective dependencies, as getting to that common goal likely means approaching it in different ways.
For instance, no one can argue that achieving top line growth is a common goal, however we rely on sales to get the the job done. Sales can’t do it alone, and revenue growth is more attainable when cross organizational teams such as sales, marketing, product and delivery come together to align on the specifics of HOW we are going to get there. From this regard, everyone has a role, everyone can contribute value, and everyone can offer unique perspectives. What’s key is aligning on the commitment to what success looks like very specifically, having a mutual understanding of every team’s role in achieving that shared and actionable vision, and maintaining open dialogue as the journey shifts and evolves.
I believe the concept of getting absolute consensus is not required, and likely unrealistic, particularly when operating in a complex environment. However, alignment and mutual understanding on how to achieve a common goal are not only possible, they are essential. There is never one way to get something done, and more often than not, there are challenges that force a different path. We can’t be so singularly focused that we forget to listen and learn along the way. By maintaining open, transparent dialogue about progress and especially challenges, we can make the necessary adjustments to get there. It’s always easy to say "not my job," "not my problem," "it’s just the way it’s always been done."
When you are transparent with what is working and what is not, when you are willing to stand up and take risks, admit mistakes and ask for help, you are more than likely going to engender the same behavior from your peers. That’s when real progress can be made. But ultimately, you have to hold yourself accountable to what you say you’re going to do and then you can hold others accountable. That’s how you move the ball forward. When you’re transparent about what you’re doing, you create a more productive dialogue with those who are dependent on you or you on them.
Be mindful of your peripheral vision.
Getting to a result that requires many inter-dependencies among teams and cultures also requires peripheral vision. To me, that means we have to listen more than talk, we have to seek to understand, and we have to have a mindset of winning and "can" vs "can’t" do. It may sound corny, but without the right frame of mind about winning as a team, it’s hard to make progress in a meaningful way. Teams don’t come together and win overnight. It takes times and it takes trust and respect.
People tend to operate within their functions and to see the world and the universe very narrowly. That’s human nature. My view is that when people have a broader understanding of what others are doing, they can provide useful feedback and adjust their own approach. With a wider lens, the chances are you will see things you might not have noticed, and your effectiveness -- and therefore the success of the broader team -- will ensure a better outcome.
Don’t let tunnel vision derail you.
What happens in a lot of companies is people get too busy, too focused on the task at hand and all of a sudden you look up and see a lot of activity from a lot of people but no common understanding of what’s going on. People stop talking, they stop learning, they miss key insights, they overlook problems that may seem minor to one group but are major issues for another, and suddenly the broader organization is in catch-up mode. You have to learn about what others around you are doing along the journey, you have to verify your own assumptions, you have to raise questions and concerns.
The onus is on YOU to broaden your understanding, to recognize that things, people and projects change. Most importantly, have the patience to know when to flex (push or drive) and when to be flexible when circumstances don’t go according the approach you have in your own mind.
The bottom line is that having common goals is critical to setting yourself and others up for success. In fact, I don’t think you’ve really won unless everyone feels they can celebrate that success -- there's no greater feeling, than winning together as a team. And it’s made even sweeter when that success is a result of a collective team addressing real issues and real challenges along the way.