In this kickoff to our 12-part series on the qualities of high-performing teams, we examine how a team’s search for ‘agreement’ derails breakthrough performance.

Wasted time

Teams waste a lot of time in meetings looking for people to agree on how work should get done. This entails people sharing what they think about an issue. “I think we should…” conversations get much more air-time than “I will…” or “Here’s what I need to be onboard.”

It’s easy to talk about problems, offer solutions, and ask questions. However, without an intentional approach to generate alignment, people’s concerns rarely get addressed, they just get talked-about. Commitment and performance suffer as a result.

Committing to the same goal

Alignment is the antidote to an agreement. In working with different functions and industries, I hear again and again that a mark of high-performing teams is alignment. Instead of spending time trying to get people to think alike, an aligned project team is committed to the same goal and acts in unison.

It’s OK to disagree

It’s inevitable that people will have differences of opinion. In fact, you want people to have an open venue in which to share how they see things. When people are comfortable saying “I disagree, here’s why…”  it means your team is both sharing critical information and addressing the issues that prevent authentic alignment.

However, it’s important to ensure that disagreement doesn’t prevent people from aligning. No team is going to be in complete agreement. It is each team member’s responsibility to voice the concerns that would otherwise undermine their commitment.

 Breakthrough performance starts with questions

It takes more than simply asking, “so, are you aligned?” Generating alignment requires two things: making commitments public and voicing peoples’ concerns with the intent of having them addressed. Try asking these questions:

  • “What are we committed to?”
  • “Where are points on which we disagree?”
  • “What needs to be addressed so that you can authentically commit?”
  • “Are you willing to align despite your reservations?”

Use these questions as a framework to get clear on what people agree on, and what they are willing to align on.

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