Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0199, April 12, 2005 | 7,000 Subscribers..

Dear friends,

Helping groups focus their energy on a shared purpose is often what facilitation is all about. Very often, it's also what leadership, training, teaching, coaching, and consulting is about whenever you're working with more than one person to get something done. And very little of any substance is ever done if not through the cooperation of many people. This week's article,
"10 Secrets to a Shared Purpose," by Chris Avery, offers what I think is a very fresh and concise perspective on what it takes to focus and group and get it moving. I hope you find it as useful as I did.

In this Issue:

Feature Article: 10 Secrets to a Shared Purpose.

Expert Tele-Seminars: Check out our growing collection of pre-recorded expert interviews.

Book Resource: Teamwork Is an Individual Skill

The MFJ Archives: Searchable collection of back issues of the MFJ.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


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Group Awareness Skill

10 Secrets to a Shared Purpose
How to help people get behind the same idea and act on it.

The Point

Helping groups focus their energy on a shared purpose is often what facilitation is all about. Very often, it's also what leadership, training, teaching, coaching, and consulting is about whenever you're working with more than one person to get something done. And very little of any substance is ever done if not through the cooperation of many people.

Contrary to much conventional wisdom on the subject, team members don't have to "get motivated" to get the job done. They don't even have to like each other. Further, the most powerful member on the team may be the person you would be least likely to hold such a title. Read the "10 Secrets to a Shared Purpose" below and let me know if you come across any surprises.


Learn the secrets for collaborating "on" purpose and your work will always have meaning. Here's how the best leaders discover common goals that unite people to collaborate "on" purpose.

1. Establish shared clarity. Discuss the charter, the mission, the deliverables, and the outcome of your team's work until you can articulate together a common and clear description of your purpose.

2. Select teammates for their motivation first, their skills second. If teamwork is important to you, then look at skills after factors like drive, energy, interest, motivation, and enthusiasm—because it's shared desire, not talent, that creates teamwork.

3. Accept—once and for all—that teammates don't have to like each other. Encouraging affinity for a shared task-not for each other-is the fastest and surest way to create strong group cohesion. Instead of using exercises and techniques to promote friendships, get everyone to adopt a common focus so that each team member sees good reason to work with the others.

4. Stop trying to motivate. Why try motivating others when it's nearly impossible? Instead, tap into the motivation that already exists in teammates by asking them about their needs and desires.

5. Determine if your team is "built." A "built" team has shared direction and energy. To achieve this status for your team, lay the foundation early by asking yourselves a variety of important questions. What is the team's task? What is the benefit to each team member for committing to the team's work? Are agreements in place that allow the team to operate rapidly and efficiently? Do team members share a common goal that inspires them? Do you know what each member brings to the team?

6. Know your most powerful team member. Your most powerful team member isn't the team leader. Or the most inspired team member. Or even the smartest member. The uncomfortable truth is, your most powerful team member is your least-invested member, as his lack of commitment establishes a low baseline to which other team members may fall. Accept this sad-but-true principle and address motivation issues early, directly, and regularly.

7. Understand and honor the definition of consensus. Consensus is not about being nice, nor is it about the majority beating up the minority until the minority withdraws. It's 100% agreement to move forward together. For your team to achieve consensus, you must know what to do when there is a difference of opinion, including silencing the majority and giving dissenters a voice.

8. Become a "fast team" by knowing how to arrive at decisions quickly. Your team can achieve high-velocity decision making by considering more alternatives and generating them together; involving more people and more points of view; communicating and integrating with other parts of your organization; drawing on the wisdom of the "gray-hairs"; and establishing the importance of collective action by agreeing that getting a result and learning from it together is more important than being right.

9. Don't fall into the "common enemy" trap. Instead of simply rallying to beat a common enemy—a frequent and intoxicating tactic that's more like a cheap trick—look for more sustainable and expansive goals that lie beyond beating an opponent.

10. Reorient the relationship when productivity begins to lag. The best time to reorient a team is any time you notice that the sense of shared direction has been lost or that the team's energy has decreased. Get the team members back on track by asking them to articulate what the team has been formed to do, what's in it for them to be on the team, what the team rules and agreements are, and what they bring to the group in terms of skill and responsibilities.

About the Author: Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized speaker on responsible teamwork, leadership and change, and the author of Teamwork Is An Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility (Berrett-Koehler, 2001). Visit his web site at


Which of the tips above surprised you? Which ones will you add to your bag of tricks when building teams?
Please send us your comments.


Teamwork Is an Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility, by Christopher M. Avery, Meri Aaron Walker, Erin O'Toole

For years, I have resisted the popular notion of "there is no `I' in "teamwork" because teams are a collection of individuals working toward a common goal. Each of us brings our own values and skill sets to the table. It is our choice to work together (or not) as a team. Christopher has captured this idea and more in his latest book, Teamwork is an Individual Skill: Getting Work Done When Sharing Responsibility. Chris suggests that individuals take responsibility for team success versus blame others He challenges the reader to be proactive and work through team issues rather than avoid or accommodate others. This is a perfect book for team members who have been on teams before. It will validate good team behaviors and point out areas to a gentle and non-threatening way. The book is easy to read with lots of stories and examples to highlight the key points. --Kristin Arnold (Hampton, VA, U.S.)

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