As a leader, I have had the privilege of leading teams in different capacities. Teams help to share the workload. Teams bring multiple skill sets for a broader and more effective impact. Teams make accomplishing the mission more fun. Teams are essential—and they offer a great environment for leadership development.
It is critical that teams understand why they exist. They must comprehend what they are trying to do and how each person is vital to the cause. Three “whys” must be answered for every member of the team if you want to experience their ownership and best efforts.
Vision constitutes the mental image of a desirable future—with passion.
Leaders must paint a word picture that allows their team to see, touch, taste, and feel the future. Vision must describe a desirable future, a feasible future—a future that is full of meaning and constitutes real change. Vision is deeply personal. It is not a wordsmithed statement or credo. If shared enough, real vision will rub off on others. This mental image must illicit a “want to” determination among the team members that results in giving their best efforts.
But vision must do one more thing to be viable.
Vision must answer the question, “Why is it worth it?”
Worthy visions cost something. Teams pay a price for pursuing worthy visions. The pursuit of a worthy vision will cost team members time, energy, and sometimes relationship. There will be many sacrifices. The vision echoes in the ears of team members that the cost is worth it.
Direction is guidance and strategic conduct toward the fulfillment of the vision.
Leaders must provide clear steps to make sure that teams make significant progress toward the vision. Leaders talk about the critical elements—the most leveraged strategies—next things—focused things that will allow the team to fulfill the vision. Leaders mark progress along the way and they celebrate milestones. They measure the impact and they don’t lie to themselves or the team about the level of effectiveness.
But direction must do one more thing.
Direction must answer the question, “Why are we doing these things?”
Especially when things get difficult, a leader must remind team members why they committed themselves to a particular way of doing things—specific strategies. If the vision is worthy it will become difficult to achieve at some point. Leaders also help the team to stay adaptable when a better direction presents itself.
Contribution is the act of giving something for a worthy vision. Contribution includes the act of giving as well as the thing that is given.
Leaders must ask teams, and every member of the team, for their best contribution toward the fulfillment of the vision. This is not a one-time request. This is not a request in a vacuum. This is a regular request that is made in the context of a compelling vision and clear direction. Generous contributions are made when team members understand “why it is worth it” and “why we are committed to doing these specific things to move toward the vision.”
Contribution must do one more thing.
Contribution must answer the question, “Why me?”
Another way to ask this question is “What’s my part?” Each member of the team must see that they are critical to the team and a necessary resource to fulfilling the vision. Each team member must understand their unique contribution and deeply feel that their contribution is important.
When you answer these three “why” questions you will get the best out of your team. And your team will help you make your best contribution as a leader. And you will make a difference.