This is strange, Angela thought. Ben had never requested to meet with her alone.

She grabbed her notebook, went to the kitchen for a quick cup of tea and then into her meeting with Ben. It was slightly past 9:30am, as was customary. But, as unusual as it was, Ben was already sitting at the conference table. Angela noticed a piece of paper lying in front of him. Hmmm, Ben’s not usually
this formal.

Ben got straight to the point, telling Angela about his concerns with her work. “This document outlines the things I just mentioned. Take a minute to read it. Sign the bottom of the sheet. This is a warning, Angela,” Ben finished.

“Ben, I don’t understand. This is the first time I have heard about this stuff.”

“Listen, I have corrected you five of the last six times you have come to me. I expect you to catch on.”

“But I don’t agree with these allegations. Can I take this back to my desk and read through it more carefully?”

“No, you’ll have to sign this incident report now,” Ben responded. “I also want you to sign a new job description.” Ben pulled out another piece of paper.

“Am I losing my job?”

“No.”

“Well, if you are going to do this, can we agree to check in a month from now?”

“Obviously there is some confusion. Read your job description, if you need some clarification let me know. Fine, we can meet in a month. But, just do your job and you’ll be ok.”

For many this is an all-too-familiar story... and one that results in a complete lack of commitment from team members.

As you begin preparing for 2011, one of your most important roles as a leader is to ensure your team is aligned. This means getting people to work on the right things.

People-First Leaders™ generate commitment by doing the following to get their teams aligned.

1. Creating and communicating a vision for the team.
2. Establishing SMART goals for their team.
3. Helping team members develop individual performance goals.
4. Providing positive and constructive feedback consistently throughout the year.
5. Clarifying roles and responsibilities.

I have already talked about creating a communicating a vision for the team in a previous blog post, so in this article we'll focus on other components of creating alignment.

Establishing SMART Goals for the Team

Having a vision and implementing it are two different things. One of your most exciting challenges will be to bring that vision to life.

To make your vision real, you will need to establish goals for the overall team that are based on departmental goals and/or organizational goals. In establishing goals, you’ll help align the team as a whole, focus your decision making, and manage your priorities.

Each of your team goals should be written as one sentence statements using the SMART format. That is, they are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-oriented. It is often helpful to break those goals down into more detailed action plans to reduce complexity and create achievable milestones.  Additionally, the goals should be posted in a central location to create transparency, open communication, and accountability.

Helping Team Members Develop Individual Performance Goals

After team goals have been established, link your vision for the team with team members’ personal aspirations by asking each of them to create individual performance goals. The fact of the matter is that team members want to know what is expected of them. They want to know what they need to do to be effective and what needs to be done to propel them to the next level.

Similar to team goals, each individual performance goal should follow the SMART format. It is important that they are established in a collaborative manner where the team member is actively part of the goal setting process. After goals have been agreed to, ask your team member to create an action plan for
each goal, breaking each down into more manageable components with key action items and target completion dates.

In many organizations, strategic goals and objectives at the enterprise level are not clear. If you are a new leader, it can be nearly impossible to influence upper management to clarify higher-level goals. Do your best to establish team goals, keep them visible, align individual performance goals with your team goals, and be prepared to make changes along the way as organizational priorities change.

Key components to building your team are having clear team goals and individual performance goals. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article where we'll explore the "glue" that keeps the team aligned throughout the year.

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