The Essentials of Teamwork Series, #1 Clarify a Shared, Meaningful Goal

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 19, Issue No. 2a
June 1, 2020

By Dan Coughlin


A team is a group of individuals who support one another toward achieving important goals and fulfilling a meaningful purpose.

The most basic element of a team is that the people on the team share a meaningful goal. They know the goal, and they know how their efforts contribute toward achieving the goal.

That might sound overwhelmingly obvious, and yet many business groups inside of the same organization are not a team. They are a collection of individuals. They might be called a committee or a task force or employees or staff members, but they are not a team. What’s missing? They don’t have a shared, meaningful goal.

Test this out for yourself. Ask 15 people in your organization what goals they are working toward achieving this year. Write down all of the answers you receive. See if there is a clear, shared, meaningful goal that emerges.

In team sports, this is simple. We want to win the championship. We want to win the conference. We want to finish above .500. All the members of the team know the goal.

In business because there is no finish line, no clear end of the season, people can come to work every day, work very hard, go home, and never feel they were part of a team. That’s a problem.

A true team can achieve significant results and people can feel that they fulfilled a meaningful purpose that goes beyond just themselves, and it can be exponentially better than they could have done on an individual basis.

However, that sense of teamwork begins with a shared, meaningful goal that every person regardless of his or her role or department can feel a connection with. It’s not always easy to clarify a shared, meaningful goal that everyone can feel connected with, but it’s the necessary first step if you want to build true teamwork in your organization.

I encourage you to have a conversation with the members of your group, or at least the heads of the various departments. Either ask them a question like, “What is the shared, meaningful goal that all of us are working to achieve?” or tell them what the shared, meaningful goal is that connects everyone. Either way, land on a clear answer.

The goal might have two or three parts to it, but what is the goal? Make sure everyone knows it, understands it, and focuses on it. Then all the other pieces of teamwork can be put into motion. Without a clear shared, meaningful goal, you will lose out on the potential value of building a great team.

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My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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