What Do Great Teams Do When Someone Is Missing Their Goals?

Too many organizations are suffering from under-performing teams. Accountability and an unwavering commitment to the shared goals of the organization are critical to avoid teams under delivering and negatively impacting their organization. One of our clients did a beautiful job demonstrating how high-performing teams behave when a team member is slipping up and failing to meet their goals. A weekly meeting was taking place and one of the individuals, we’ll call her Joan, was struggling to meet her projections for the quarter.

Typically, the team would exchange disinterested looks as if to imply “Oh, bummer.” In some extreme cases it even got to the point of schadenfreude, where team members gleaned a sense of joy from seeing one of their teammates fail. However, in this particular case, having embraced the Ferrazzi Greenlight principles, the team consensus was one of deep concern. Their sense of shared ownership and accountability prompted one of the other team members to speak up: “Let’s not leave the room until we all help Joan get back on track.” This response shows true leadership. This is how high-performing teams respond when a member is struggling.

The Integrity Continuum

Science validates this high-performance behavior, too, as recent research shows that accountability and sharing goals improves goal achievement by 35%. Unfortunately, the vast majority of teams do not behave like this; they fall somewhere else on what we call the “Integrity Continuum.” At one end of the continuum are poorly performing teams. They talk behind one another’s backs, are gleeful at someone else’s failure as though it elevates them, and are far out of integrity. Then you have average teams. They are characterized by indifference. Individuals are not necessarily happy about the failings of others, they are just glad it’s not them. Further toward the right of the spectrum is what good teams do, they share the burden, picking up their team members load and walking with it. People generally presume this is optimal but there is one step further.

Really great teams are so committed to one another that they don’t just share the burden but proactively assist in the development of a struggling teammate. For high-performing teams it’s not just about solving the problem and ensuring numbers are hit, it’s about dealing with the root issue through co-elevating struggling team members and committing to their success and development as they would their own.

The First Step In Developing A Commitment to Shared Goals in Your Team

A key first step to ensuring your team is situated on the far right of the “Integrity Continuum” is a practice we call Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) with Agile Sprint Cycle Accountability. It is one of the high-return practices we use to improve business outcomes with our clients and provide teams with a structure for collaborating on, and holding each other accountable for, the accomplishment of strategic goals throughout a particular time frame.

Putting It into Practice: Collaborative Problem Solving with Agile Sprint Cycle Accountability

The Agile Sprint Cycle takes advantage of the benefit of being held accountable to peers when attempting to achieve a given outcome. It functions as follows

  • Set and commit to goals with one another
  • Follow up on these goals on a weekly or bi-weekly basis
  • Review goals and share progress with the team at each follow-up
  • Discuss areas in which support is needed and get clear on what is planned next
  • At the end of each cycle do a brief, team review to celebrate the goals that have been completed and to debrief those that have not been

For an organization to perform at its best, teams need to have a real commitment to shared goals which is backed by a sense of accountability to one another’s outcomes. Attaining this requires a conscious and proactive effort which is where practices such as Collaborative Problem Solving come in. There needs to be a collective sense of ownership so that the prevailing attitude is “your results are my results; our results are the organizations results.” This kind of co-elevation, where team members own each other’s successes and never let each other fail, is what a commitment to shared goals is really about.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn. For more from Keith you can follow along on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


Keith Ferrazzi

Keith Ferrazzi


New York Times best-selling author, speaker

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