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Coaches Diary: Team Goals

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In the latest installment of her casebook, Olivia Stefanino's client learns the value of team-building.


Mark knew that his senior managers were doing all that was expected of them.  And yet he was also firmly convinced that they were doing no more than was expected of them.

Disappointed at their lack of commitment, Mark had booked an appointment with me to see if he could get to the root cause of the problem.  Even before he had sat down, Mark had begun to share his troubles.  He had set up his book-keeping practice nearly eight years ago – and thanks to his hard work, he now employed 11 staff at his busy practice.

Three of those staff had been with him since the early days – and Mark had rewarded them for their loyalty by promoting each of them to senior management level. Also, he had reinforced his gratitude by giving them a shareholding in the business – not only as a “thank you” – but also as a means of encouraging them to work hard in the future too.  His theory was that – with shares in the company – his senior managers would have even more incentive to work hard.

However, for reasons that he couldn’t fathom, Mark’s plan had seemed to backfire.  I asked Mark to outline his long term plans for his business – and he quickly replied that he wanted to “sell up” within the next 15 years, so that he could take early retirement.  “And,” I gently responded, “What do your colleagues want? What’s their long term view of the future?”

Mark looked at me blankly, not thinking for a moment that his colleagues’ views would be any different to his own. “They all stand to do very well out of the business being sold – so their views aren’t really relevant.”

I was beginning to sense where the problem lay – and suggested to Mark that perhaps his colleagues felt that he viewed them more as a “means to an end” rather than as people in their own right. Mark looked stung – but I remained silent, allowing him to think through my words.  Wriggling uncomfortably in his chair, he asked me to elaborate.

“Do you know what’s important to your colleagues – not only their hopes and fears - but also their goals?” Mark shook his head. “Sadly,” I continued, “you’re in good company. A recent survey we ran showed that fewer than 1% of employers knew their staff’s goals. And yet when you think about it, as well as fulfilling themselves through their labours, people generally go to work to earn money to seed fund their own lives. If you don’t know what someone’s goals are – you can’t possibly know how to motivate them.”

Looking rather sheepish, Mark acknowledged that he had withdrawn emotionally from his colleagues – partly because he was disappointed in them and partly because he had recently met the woman of his dreams and fallen in love. 

“I guess I don’t socialise with everyone at work as much as I used to – and maybe people have taken that to mean that I no longer care about them.  But actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  I thought that by building up the business and then selling it, I was doing right by everyone.  Also, I knew that if a larger company wanted to buy us out, then they would take on the existing staff for a number of years – because without the staff, there isn’t much of a company to sell!”

Mark acknowledged that he hadn’t shared fully shared his plans with his staff – and he also admitted that he hadn’t asked them about their aspirations either.  Recognising that he needed to put things right, he asked me what he should do.

Mark began to nod when I suggested that he plan an “away day” for the whole senior team.  “It doesn’t need to be exotic, although I am sure that they will appreciate being away from the office, in a nice hotel. I suggest that you have an agenda for the day – perhaps even headlining the event: ‘The future – our vision’”.

I explained that everyone needed a chance to have their say – and that he might do well to start the proceedings by apologising for not having done this exercise before.  “An apology will go a long way – and you need to reinforce your commitment to every member of your staff.”

Wishing him luck, I also gave Mark a handful of notes, together with some tips for ensuring that his team-building event was a great success. 

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power” at beyourownguru.com.

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