Watching the London Summer Olympics over the past couple of weeks has shown that you can have team success and individual achievement when things are working well. The US Women’s Gymnastics team was a great example of this in action. They all did their best to reach the team’s goal of a gold medal and then each was able to focus on their individual events leading to an astonishing number of medals for the US in gymnastics.
They were able to accomplish this because each member of the team had their focus aligned. At the beginning it was all about the team competition. Each member did their best to get to the finals and then stepped up their performance again to reach the gold. During this time they were competing against each other to reach the all-around competition and yet they fully supported each other. The team captain, Ally Raisman was edged out of the all-around spot but she pulled herself together and gave 100% endorsement to her teammates. This was class in action. She came back and won two individual medals.
All too often teams are torn between group and individual goals. In the workplace this shows up in supporting project and/ or departmental goals while reaching for good personal performance reviews. In an environment where only the best performers get raises or bonuses then the individual targets can become the primary focus and the group goals fall by the wayside. So how do you make it work?
- Align the goals. Make achieving the department goals part of each individual’s performance criteria. This makes sure each person has a vested interest in the group’s goals.
- Celebrate team success. Provide recognition and awards to the entire group when goals are met or exceeded. This will reinforce the idea that working together pays off.
- Lead by example. Make sure you model the importance of the team goals, particularly in the face of personal letdowns. The team leader will set the tone for team behavior.
- Reward individual achievement. It is still important to recognize and reward people’s individual contributions. This is where development takes place and provides the opportunity to adjust behaviors and grow future leaders.
Teams that have the ability to pull together to reach common goals while still acting as individuals can achieve so much more than teams that just do the minimum needed. When pressure is applied the united teams will step up, support each other, and get better. The other teams will crack, each person will be out for themselves, and they will falter. The best teams relish the individual strengths of each member and contribute their best efforts towards the team goals.
How have you combined the need for group success and individual achievement?