Collaboration is hard. Even the smartest teams struggle with it. Bringing together dozens of perspectives and evaluating ideas is hard enough. That doesn't even take into account the difficulty of allowing the solution -- not individual personalities -- to take center stage.
Pinpointing a mission for everyone to follow sounds easy enough. But when bad management or conflicts spring up, that rallying cry is soon abandoned. People begin thinking about themselves, not the customers or co-workers they're helping.
That means the rally cry needs to come long before any solutions are proposed. But even identifying the mission requires collaboration.
What's It All For?
Anyone who's watched "Braveheart" can quote William Wallace's rallying cry: "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!" While war immediately gives groups unity, work teams need something just as compelling to fuel their work. It may not be life-or-death, but it needs to justify what they do.
A 2017 study of more than 1,100 companies from the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Rob Cross, a professor at Babson College, found that companies that championed collaboration were fives times more likely to be high-performing. Only a minority of participants achieved strong results, with purpose being their driving force.
To meet this need, I've created a method deemed the "Rally Cry Method." The Rally Cry is a meeting that gets people to share their ideas and decide on the top objective. That single objective aligns the team for the next six months.
How to Make the Rally Cry Work
This concept sprang to life as a result of an interview with Brad Griffith, the co-founder and CEO of Gametime, an organization providing mobile access to live events to unite fan communities. Gametime used this strategy to grow fast enough to be ranked No. 3 on the 2017 Inc. 5000.
1. Discuss the ideas.
First, the Gametime team uses the Rally Cry to give everyone a say on the company's direction. The goals are threefold: 1) Everyone feels heard; 2) the best ideas get airtime; and 3) the decision is deliberate and thoughtful, taking place over three weeks.
Griffith explained, "Our approach is to put all the ideas on the table and select the best ones through a conversation. Then, you get a better answer and can be more aligned on how and why we got there. Everyone knows why that's the most important thing."
2. Pick just one.
It's tempting to pick three big goals, particularly if your leadership team struggles with being everything to everyone. But that means your attention is divided, so your efforts aren't as impactful.
Using the same team input, Gametime narrows the list to one objective. The point is to give this mission its full attention for a six-month period. The team calls this the "thematic goal" -- if everything is important, nothing truly is.
3. Align the team.
Once the mission has been selected, everyone within the team is assigned objectives aligning with that company goal. This gives everyone an opportunity to influence the team's progress.
But Griffith says you have to end the Rally Cry with the actual rallying cry and the elements needed to support it. "Go around the room and ask, 'How are we on board with this?'" he says. Each person states what he personally will do to attain this goal.
I've used the Rally Cry Method with my coaching clients to ensure the best ideas are heard. The power of this approach comes from people's deep alignment around one goal.
Keep the Circle Tight
This approach pairs well with an idea Nir Polak, the co-founder and CEO of Exabeam, Inc., a computer security service, shared with me. He's all about transparency, from evaluating weak performance to sharing nitty-gritty financial details.
He recommends teams strive for this same level of transparency when working together. One way: a communication evaluation exercise. "You go and you ask every team to rank their communication with everybody else," Polak explains. "So they are in the center, and they rank everybody else. How are they doing?" Ratings from green (good) to red (bad) are awarded.
The teams aggregate the information in a heat map so everybody can see what others have said about them. "You can really see the hotspots, you know, where you do have indications we have to work on," he says. "It's just a way for us to bubble it up...You know you want to talk about the bad things; you want to have a medium to do it."
By selecting a rallying cry together -- and holding each other accountable -- teams can get more done through collaboration. The Rally Cry Method may sound intimidating, but the only thing worse than a team with issues is a team that doesn't address them -- and never reaches its full potential.