How to Build Teams that Row Together

I asked top leaders, “What three problems hinder great teamwork?” Many responses centered on alignment.

  1. Not understanding the team’s mission.
  2. Lack of a clear mission.
  3. Lack of clarity about roles and expectations.
  4. Misalignment on mission or purpose.
  5. Lack of clarity.

I asked the same leaders, “What three things do great teams habitually do?” Many responses centered on the broad topic of alignment.

  1. Row in unison.
  2. Have clear measurable goals.
  3. Reemphasize objectives/clarify goals.
  4. Stay on mission.
  5. Constantly reinforce the team’s mission.

Shared pain motivates people to row together:

A hole in the boat brings people together.

People row together when solving the problem is useful to everyone in the boat. Connect self-interest and organizational-interest if you want people to row together.

What’s in it for ME connects with what’s in it for US on teams that row together.

Compelling mission is the answer to a painful problem.

Discussion topics:

  1. What problem are we solving?
  2. What pain-point are we answering in the world?
  3. How will we fill the gap between what should be and what is?
  4. How does our solution make the world better?

People row together when the hole in the boat matters to them.

If you can achieve your goal alone, team work is a frustrating inconvenience.

Find the right hole:

The hole is out there.

Great teams go beyond fixing the hole in their own boat. Great teams fix the hole in someone else’s boat.

A team that’s focused on it’s own pain can’t bring value to the world. Work on teamwork so your team can bring value to people who aren’t on the team.

Tips for building teams that row together:

  1. Get in one boat.
  2. Clarify the destination. (Mission/goal)
  3. Row in the same direction.
  4. Respect the rower beside you. No one rows with vitality when they feel disrespected.

What prevents teams from rowing together?

How might leaders build teams that row together?

Bonus material:

Team effectiveness discussion guide. (reWork)

Conquering team dysfunction. (Table Group)