Is your team committed to the same goals and objectives? When a decision is made are they all on the same page about what will be done? If your answer to these two questions is yes, then your team is aligned well and is likely a high performing team. Unfortunately this in not the case for most teams and even great teams have moments where everyone is not equally committed.
What makes up commitment in a team? Patrick Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team talks about the dysfunction that arises from a lack of commitment. This comes from a lack of clarity and buy-in. Everyone must be totally clear on what has been decided and what they have to do to implement the decision. As well, they must agree that this is the best decision and agree to do their part to making it happen.
True commitment does not mean that there is a unanimous decision. It means that everyone has participated in discussing the idea, the options, raised objections and worked out a solution that everyone is willing to support. Odds are the solution is not 100% what any one person wanted. Rather it is a result of collaboration and striving for a workable solution. This requires a strong leader who will get everyone’s ideas out on the table and then drive resolution and select a solution.
Once a decision has been reached it is critical to clarify exactly what will be done. Wrap up the discussion with a review of the decision – in writing and in front of everyone. Test for understanding of the decision. Never assume that everyone “gets it.” People will interpret things they hear and this may dilute the message and the effectiveness of implementing a decision. Probe for understanding, ask questions and push for confirmation of agreement to back the chosen solution.
Next the leader must gain agreement that each person will communicate the decision as needed. If the decisions are made at the executive level then everyone must share it throughout their portion of the organization. In a work team environment, the team members must be willing to tell others what they decided and use that decision as their work direction. No team works in a complete vacuum so communicating what was decided is part of each member’s commitment to the team and decision.
One of the best methods for gaining commitment is to have a high level goal or objective that everyone supports. This is the definition of the purpose of the team. When the team is aligned with this goal it is easier to back decisions that support the higher goal even when it’s not their first choice. The high level goal puts everything else in perspective and provides a framework for making decisions and taking action. As solutions are explored and evaluated make sure they support the higher goal and that this is clarified for everyone. Gaining commitment will be easier when the decision is seen as aligned.
Gaining team commitment to decisions, solutions and daily activities will happen when everyone trusts each other and is comfortable with sharing differing opinions. Positive conflict, the conflict that allows people to be heard, will aid the development of team commitment. Everyone has had their say so they will be more willing to get on board with the team’s decision.