Winning teams do not think of their work as work. They view what they do as a mission. The difference is profound. Think of the NASA teams who put people and shuttles into space. They weren’t working for the agency – they were committed to the country, to science, to the mission of exploring new frontiers. If you think that’s the private reserve of space travel or the search for a cancer cure, look at the teams constantly driving Amazon and Progressive Insurance to turn missions into miracles.
Based on our experience coaching and advising leaders for two decades, the ones who can successfully inspire their people to greatness have one competency before all others: cultivating a team fiercely aligned around a mission.
How do you create mission alignment that top-performing teams have?
1. Create a mission together. We have worked with many leadership teams where the members could recite the mission, but it sounded like a sentence in an annual report. It was clear there was no passion behind it. This is not team alignment. This is a team feeling like a slave to the leader’s ideas. And this does not create anything beyond mediocre performance. Rather, sit with your team and craft the mission together based on the question: What does our team do that no other team in the company can do?
2. Create a meaningful mission. Research consistently shows that motivation and organizational results are tied to the accomplishment of something meaningful. Great leaders answer the question: Why does our work matter to the organization, its customers, and the world?
3. Create mission-critical thinking. Great teams are filled with employees who internalize the mission, make decisions based on it, and collaborate in the spirit of it – this is mission critical thinking. Remind your team of the mission in your meetings and communication, give positive and constructive feedback to team members on how they are living the mission, and make it part of annual evaluations.
Do these 3 things to create team alignment and the mission will run through employees’ minds not as fear, but as a reminder to hold themselves accountable to the highest standards of your team.