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Commit to the goal, not to each other

Average reading time: 2 minutes 10 seconds

I suspect that you’ve been on a lot of team off-sites throughout your career.

A few of them may have benefitted the team and helped improve your collective performance. But these were probably the exception rather than the norm.

Regardless of the impact, the agenda for your last two-day off-site may have looked something like this:

Day One
• Getting to know each other
• Deepening relationships and building trust
• Ways of working
• Team charter

Day Two
• Our team vision
• Priorities, milestones and KPIs
• Roles and responsibilities

Sound familiar?

And as you will know from your own (sometimes painful) experience, it doesn’t lead to as much positive change as you hoped it would.

I should know, I spent many years facilitating off-sites like this. But not anymore.

The major problem with agendas like this (and there are many) is that they are ordered and weighted towards getting teams to be connected and fully committed to each other.

But the research tells us that commitment to a shared goal, that cannot be mastered alone, is significantly more important as a driver of high-performance than commitment to each other.

You don’t all have to be great friends to be a high-performing team and you certainly don’t need to get along all the time. History is littered with elite, high-performing teams made up of individuals who didn’t all get along. The GB Men’s Eight rowing team that won gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics is one such example.

You don’t have to all be friends, nor do you need to be fully committed to each other.

Start with end in mind

What you must be is fully committed to the goal. A better approach therefore, is to start with the end in mind.

• What is the big, scary and audacious goal that you want to achieve as a team?
• What must happen in order for everyone to be fully committed to achieving it, and how can you link your individual motivators to that goal?
• Agree upon your definition of victory. What does success look like?
• Where are you now? Be brutally honest.
• What are the team norms required to achieve your vision?

Note how that last bullet point comes last.

The truth is, you can’t build a team charter that will have any sort of positive impact before you’ve explored everything that comes before. And if you try, at least half of your team will be actively disengaged during day one of the off-site. If you could read the minds of these people, you’d likely hear them saying things like:

“This is a waste of time. Let’s just get on and work out how we can hit our targets.”

Which of course is the sole purpose of a team: to work together and achieve something far greater than people ever could by working alone.


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