I want you to think about any team you’ve ever been on. No matter where your head goes, you’ve probably experienced moments where everyone seemed to be moving in a different direction. Maybe there were a lot of people on the team and too many different ideas about where to start to achieve the goal. Or maybe the team lead struggled with casting vision and no one knew what the goal was. If your team wasn’t aligned, then it likely came down to a lack of clarity.
The landscape of work has changed dramatically over the last few years, and with more companies adopting a hybrid or remote work model, it’s more important than ever to have team alignment. Creating clarity for your team is the biggest step towards achieving success as a team. One of the key components that high-performing teams embrace is having S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Here’s what the S.M.A.R.T. acronym stands for and how you can use it to create clarity for your team:
It can be difficult to reach a goal if the goal is too broad. Giving your team a specific goal helps them to know exactly what they’re aiming for and increases the likelihood that they’ll hit the target. Ask yourself “What is the goal? Who’s working on it? How do we achieve it?” Break down your goal into what’s really important, focus on that, and cut out the rest. High-performing teams know when to say no, and when to use their yes efficiently. Trust that with clarity on the big picture, your team can figure out the rest.
Specifying the goal is a great first step, but it won’t be effective if the goal isn’t measurable and your team doesn’t know what the measurable is. Are you trying to boost sales by 5% over the next quarter? Do you want to improve customer retention by 10% in the next year? Be clear with your team about how they will know when the goal has been reached.
Making your goal actionable means making it achievable in a relatively short amount of time. This one really goes hand in hand with the first two. If your goal is specific and measurable, it’s much easier to make it actionable. If the goal takes too long to achieve, it can affect the team's motivation. They may feel like they’re working hard and getting nowhere. When the goal can be achieved in a shorter amount of time, your team knows the amount of effort they need to put in to reach success.
If you are working on a long-term goal, ensure you break it down into bite-sized checkpoints along the way. As your team hits each checkpoint, it’ll confirm they are on the right track and give them encouragement to keep pushing. It also keeps you from micromanaging by giving you visibility into their progress.
Tip: Knowing what motivates your team members will help you create these smaller goals in the most effective manner. Learn more about customizing your leadership techniques to your team members here.
It’s good to have big dreams and cast long-term visions about what your team or organization could achieve in the future, but creating clarity often means being realistic about which goals can be accomplished in a certain amount of time and which ones can’t. If your team feels stressed and overwhelmed by lofty goals, they’ll have a hard time performing the way you want them to. Set your team up for success by keeping the goal realistic from the beginning.
All of the other SMART steps are important, but if your goal has no deadline, you run the risk of the goal losing value to your team or organization. Setting a clear timeline for achieving your goal helps to create team alignment. Your team will know what they’re supposed to be doing and when it needs to be done. Without a timeline, tyranny of the urgent will creep in, and before you know it, your goal is left in the dust.
Now, that was the how of creating clarity, but why is clarity critical to building high-performance teams?
It’s simple: Clarity is the foundation of a successful team.
Without clarity, no one is clear on the vision, the mission, or the goals. No one will know what they’re supposed to be doing or when they’re supposed to do it. Clarity is the most critical building block of high-performance teams because it sets the baseline for excellence.
Clarity improves communication, which makes for a more collaborative team. A collaborative team takes ownership of the goal and can share in success when it's achieved. Clarity allows your team to know when they are winning.
So, what do you do now? Well, if you’re unsure whether you’re leading with clarity or not, ask your team these questions:
If you’re already leading your team with clarity, great work! Keep it up by practicing clarity while giving feedback. And don’t forget to share with us one way you led with clarity this week. We’re excited to hear about it.