How To Mobilize Your Team To Work Toward A Common Goal
Asking groups to set aside their differences to work toward a common cause is a timeless and universal approach used by leaders. It is one of the most powerful means to bind people together to take collective action. How often have you found yourself entering the fray in a meeting by asking disputing groups to “work together for the common good” or “put aside your differences and go for the win-win”?
It is one thing to do this effectively when groups are relatively similar in values, needs and interests. It is quite another when you find yourself trying to bridge groups with deep and long-standing differences: people with clashing religious beliefs, former competitors or even bitter enemies. In these situations, you need to find a way to create a shared identity that is large enough to be unifying for all the groups yet specific enough for joint action to be taken. The following tactics will help you negotiate this delicate balance:
Craft a Galvanizing Vision, Mission or Goal That Rallies Groups to Take Collective Action. In the corporate arena, staking out common ground often focuses on strategic or competitive goals: winning market share, hitting financial targets, being first to market with an innovative product or service, or outperforming a competitor. For example, nothing builds community better at Apple than going toe to toe with PC computer companies. Tactics such as these forge common ground by focusing on a common enemy and emphasizing what is positive and distinctive about one organization compared with its competitors.
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Build Shared Identity by Identifying Common, Inclusive Values. Although a vision or goal helps point groups in a common direction, a shared set of values helps groups internalize the core behaviors and beliefs needed to get there.
Develop a Culture in Which “Everyone Belongs.” Creating and changing organizational culture begins with you and the other leaders in your organization.
Craft Shared Symbols or Artifacts to Represent Who “We” Are and What “We” as a Collective Believe. Throughout human history, symbols, artifacts and icons have served as a powerful force for clans, tribes, cultures, nations and organizations to express who they are and what they believe in. Similarly, you and the leaders throughout your organization can draw on symbolism to create meaning and transcendent purpose.
Narrate Stories in Which Everyone Plays a Part. Analysis breaks down complex topics into smaller component parts. It is associated with left-brain thinking processes, such as logic, reason and objectivity. In contrast, narratives (i.e., stories) are a means for synthesis, stating how things fit together and conveying shared values, emotions and aspirations. Stories are associated with right-brain thinking, such as meaning, emotion and subjectivity. Analysis and narrative both play an important role in business. Yet when it comes to crafting shared purpose and meaning, a compelling story probably will prove more useful than any number of objective statistics or data points.