4 keys to get your team moving in the same direction


December 16 is “Cat Herders Day.” I don’t know if this special day was created with small business owners in mind, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Keeping the employees on your team all headed in the same direction can, at times, be a seemingly impossible task. I’ve found that small business owners who have this problem can solve it by making some fairly simple improvements to their leadership style and management goals. Here are four keys required to accomplish that.

1. Goals and priorities

If you look up the word “priority” in the dictionary it defines it as “A thing that is regarded as more important than another.” Strictly speaking, you can’t have 10 priorities. That would force you to ask the question, “Which of these is more important than the others?” You can have more goals, but you can still only have one goal that is the most important.

If you’re unable to determine the most important goal you want for your organization, you can’t expect your team to all be rowing in the same direction. Therefore, to solve the “herding cats” problem, you need to have a very short list of goals for your team.

2. Communication

Once you have your goals, they must be communicated. However, communicating them isn’t accomplished by sending out a memo one day and then moving on.

Simplify your messaging and make it a mantra. Model it and mention it. Your employees should be able to recite your goals back to you. Quiz them on it: “What’s the most important thing we’re trying to accomplish this quarter?”

If they can’t answer that question, it’s not their fault – it’s your fault!

3. Cooperation

Instilling an attitude of cooperation is fundamental to keeping your team members moving in the same direction. Although competition is healthy, it’s critical that your employees remember that they need to be focusing their competitive energies on your business competitors, not internally between one another where it can escalate to internecine conflict.

4. Accountability

Holding your employees accountable to your few, clearly defined, and well communicated goals “closes the loop.” Accountability can be informal and formal. It can range from quick conversations in the hallway, to discussions at meetings, to using it as a rating category on reviews. Ask employees what they are doing to further your goals and to assess their own progress.

This year, take a few moments on Cat Herders Day to get better organized. Your business will be far more successful if your team resembles the racers at the start of the Indianapolis 500 rather than a herd of loveable – but clearly undisciplined – cats.