How do you make sure your team members are all aligned with the team’s goals?

How to align your team with your goals
Step one is to make sure that you are clear on your vision for the team. You need to bring it to life in your own mind before you communicate it to others, and make sure you have a strong mental image of it in every sensory channel, so that it’s not just words on paper and numerical targets.

What will you see when your team is achieving its goals? What will you hear? What will it feel like?

Bringing your vision to life in your sensory imagination like this will engage your emotions, meaning that you are more strongly motivated to make your goals happen.

Step 2 is to communicate your vision to your team, making sure they have a shared understanding of where the team is going. Just as you did with your own mental images of success, you need to engage their sensory imagination so that they have a stronger emotional response. You can do this by using vivid sensory language rather than dry, abstract business speak.

So rather than saying:

We will deliver a systematic and sustained programme of efficiency and measures for improved effectiveness, translated into sustained local delivery to ensure the delivery of more stretching centrally derived targets. There will be more emphasis on local ownership and accountability for the identification and delivery of efficiencies. (NB this is from the old UK Environment Agency’s website circa 2004)

You could say something like

Our team will find better ways of doing things, embracing new ideas. We will change the way we work to reduce costs for us and for our customers, whilst pushing up our levels of service. We will listen to our customers and tell them about our successes.

Keep it simple, keep it sensory.

Step three is to make sure that your team’s actions are consistent with the vision at every level. What do I mean by level? There’s a model in NLP called “logical levels of change” that you can use to analyse the performance of a team or organisation, and guide it through changes.

A good way to think of this is to imagine a pyramid with a number of layers.

"Logical Levels"

The base layer is Environment – this is where you are, and what’s around you – including other people.

The Environment level is the level of opportunities – and external threats. It includes where you work, where you live, and the people around you. If you’re using this model to look at a business, it would include its market, its competitors, and the legal and regulatory framework it does business in.

The next level up is Behaviour. This is what you actually do – which of course takes place in, and acts upon, your Environment.

Continuing upwards, the next level is Capability. If Behaviour is what you do, this is what you know how to do, what you are able to do, the skills that you have. So your Behaviour is chosen from within your range of skills – just because you have the ability to do something, doesn’t mean you will do it.

The next level up is Values and Beliefs – Values being what’s important to you, and Beliefs being what you believe about yourself, about other people, and about how the world works. Your values are what motivate you – if a goal is important to you, you will put time and effort into making it happen – and they are also the criteria that you use to decide if something is right or wrong.

Beliefs include cause and effect linkages – you believe that a certain event is caused by something else, or that a particular action will cause certain consequences. We can also include your rules for yourself at this level – “if this happens, I will do that”. Also beliefs about yourself, like “We can achieve whatever we set our minds to” or “the team is greater than the sum of its parts”, and beliefs about the world around you, like “There are plenty of customers out there”.

Above that we have the level of Identity. This is the level of who you are, your sense of self. “We are worldchangers” or “We are the best at what we do” are examples of beliefs it might be useful for a team to have”.

Finally – and this is often left out of business NLP books for some reason, maybe because they think it will frighten the suits – we have the level of Purpose or Spirit. This is what you are part of that is more important to you than you are to yourself; what you feel connected to, and what ultimately you would give up your life for. For some people this will be their religion, for other people it may be some political cause, or their country, or their family, or an idea – or it may be a combination of some of these elements, or there may be a gap there. If there is a gap there – if people haven’t been focused on anything beyond themselves and their immediate problems – that’s when you get people asking themselves questions like “Is that all there is?” or “What now?” when they’ve reached a goal they thought they wanted, or run out of away-from motivation.

In order for a team, or an organisation, to be at its best, the levels need to be in aligned with each other. For example, if the team has ‘Respect’ and ‘Integrity’ as stated values (as Enron famously did in 1999) but at the Behaviour level it treats its people badly or cheats its customers, what are people going to believe? What they say, or what they do?

The Identity and Values need to support the Purpose; the Behaviour also needs to support the Purpose, and the organisation may need to develop new Capabilities in order to be act in the way that’s needed. When Identity, Values, Capabilities and Behaviour all line up to support the Purpose, the organisation has access to all of its resources and has the best possible shot at being able to cope with any challenges or competition in its Environment.

The final step is to help your team members find ways in which their values can be fulfilled by the team vision. There are many possible ways to reach a goal. Make sure that the ways you achieve your team vision allow your team members to stay motivated because their values are fulfilled. You may not be able to keep all of their values fulfilled all of the time, but as long as people feel they are getting most of what they need most of the time, they will stay with you.

What if you haven’t taken the time yet to discover what motivates each individual in your team? As a general rule, people want to feel they belong – so make sure they feel part of the team. They want autonomy – so don’t micromanage them. Tell them what they need to achieve and let them achieve it in their own way. And they want to feel competent – so make sure each team member is in a role that allows they to use their strengths.

Bonus tip: there is a way to make it more likely that all team members have a clear understanding of the team’s values, goals and purpose, and that these are aligned with their individual values. That is to involve them in envisioning what the team’s values and goals should be, using a participative process such as Appreciative Inquiry. Discover more about Appreciative Inquiry here, and find out about the Practical Appreciative Inquiry facilitator training here.

‘Logical Levels’ model originally developed by Robert Dilts and Todd Epstein

How To Align Your Team Members With Your Goals

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One thought on “How To Align Your Team Members With Your Goals

  • Hello Andy
    A very nice and easy to follow explanation of NLP’s Neurological Levels overlaid on the idea of change. I particularly love your description of the Purpose level. Thanks to you for writing this article I will be using this approach on my next project.
    Kind regards

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