At your next staff meeting, have one slide displayed for everyone to see: A copy of the company’s mission statement. Use no other slides—no 20-page handout—no prepared script. Simply welcome your team, point to the slide, and just stand there quietly. Don’t say a word. Wander slowly and deliberately throughout the room. Take your time. (Five minutes will be quite sufficient – it’ll seem interminable).
Expect some snickers, a lot of side glances and whispers, as people wonder what you are doing. But stick with it! Just wander around, keeping your eyes on the Mission.
When you feel enough time has elapsed for people to move from the questioning, through the whispering, and to the review of the Mission, it’s time to address your captive audience with an air of humility, sincerity, and concern tinted with an obvious bias for action. Ask the following two questions in the order we suggest, as passionately and arrestingly as you can:
1. What are we doing that gets in the way of achieving that goal?
2. What am I doing that gets in the way?
Stand there quietly and wait for the first glimmerings of the team’s reaction. You may not have to wait long. (On the other hand, you may have to wait’em out). Devote as much time as it takes to field their responses. Record everything that is said. Use a red marker to record the team’s input for emphasis. They’ll probably draw blood. (We referred to humility earlier).
Exercise humility now; delegate the task of recording what is said to no one! Record every word, each assault, every indictment and innuendo, each shot or salvo leveled by the team, at the team, or directed at you.
Say nothing during the onslaught, except words of encouragement. Even if the silence between barrages becomes deafening, remain poised and quiet, ready to field more fuel to the fire.
Does this process seem dramatic? You betcha!
Will the team wonder what’s up? Probably!
Will they begin to see where you’re headed? Most definitely!
Consider the alternative. Does it make good business sense to continue operating in full knowledge (or at least suspecting) that team members are rowing in different directions or that the team is confusing activity with accomplishment?
Once you’re comfortable with the collective input, once you’ve sensed team catharsis, and after you believe you’ve heard from everyone – thank the team sincerely. Then ask for two to three volunteers to join you in addressing each item drawn in ‘blood’ (red marker).
Promise to clean up your act first, then tackle the team’s shortcomings. Disregard those items where the team pointed fingers at sabotage artists outside the group. Let the team own their own mistakes and shortcomings.
Promise quick and decisive remedial action on two to three items by the close of business that day, if possible. (We have seen incredible results, like the time a long-standing issue of no hot water in the work area was fixed while the meeting was still in session!) Launch a full-blown remedial campaign to eliminate the rest of the mission-stoppers. Resolve to make this a team effort. Demonstrate your unmitigated support. Conduct ‘how are we doing’ sessions. Allow your team to lead these sessions. Demand course-correction results. Hold these sessions regularly until the way you do business is in direct alignment with the mission statement.
It is extremely important that you show your unfailing visible support.
If handled right this can be a galvanizing event. This one simple demonstration, this snapshot of your company’s mission statement, is not just worth a thousand words, but more like a million.
How Does Research Support This?
By the way, recent research on team effectiveness supports face-to-face work improvement sessions. There really are benefits to sizing up teammates face-to-face. Organizations that once relied solely on distributed teams have found that it is well worth the time and expense to get members together to solve organizational concerns. (Hackman, 2011).Research support: Hackman, Richard, Collaborative Intelligence: Using Teams to Solve Hard Problems, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA., 2011.