Team engagement – 4 tips for when they need to ‘grow up’

Does your team need to ‘grow up’? It’s a conversation I regularly have with business leaders – this isn’t about average age, or maturity, it’s about teams loving what they do, but being reluctant to formalise, standardise and implement procedures, which are often needed as organisations grow and sustain. This blog shares tips on team engagement through keeping hold of the ‘good stuff’ – innovation, spontaneity, a feeling of belonging, whilst increasing accountability and ability to execute strategy.

Creating the organisation or team up to this point has been an adventure of discovery – together, and as the conversation turns to standards, processes and procedures team engagement may decrease.

My approach to increasing team engagement is to explore the question; “how can we keep the good stuff and implement what we need for growth/change?”

  • Creating mini-visions to deliver the overall vision
  • Keeping the focus on culture
  • Develop working practices around how values become actions
  • Translate organisational objectives into chunked down meaning

Creating mini-visions to deliver the overall vision

As an organisation evolves teams can become further removed from the creators of organisational vision – usually the founder or leadership team.

Team engagement, belief, motivation & emotion come from debate, questioning, interpreting & considering ‘what does this mean for me?’

Asking teams to create their team or departmental vision for the future means they start to actually imagine and buy into that future. It gives them the opportunity to ‘chunk down’ the big vision into something meaningful for them.

Asking them to consider what they will see, hear and feel in that future engages all senses and puts them into a ‘when’ it happens mindset, rather than ‘if’ it happens.  The mini-vision then becomes compelling because they begin to understand their part in delivering it and they have already started to believe that it will happen. (A team pause is a good place to start)

Keeping the focus on culture

It’s too easy to get drawn into focussing upon what can be measured and ticked off – the ‘what’ of delivering the future vision. This means the ‘how’ we do it gets less attention. 

Peter Drucker said:

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and he was spot on.

Change and growth plans often focus upon the ‘what’ and forget about defining ‘who we are when we’re delivering the strategy’. Minimise the gap between ‘what we say we will do’ and ‘what we actually do’, through facilitated discussions, as well as providing opportunities for feedback – in groups or person to person, to give every individual the opportunity to build their reflection muscles, which in turn develops understanding, which leads to engagement.  (The Creating Wow! team alignment programme develops the skills of team sharing and feedback).

Develop working practices around how values become actions

Values are often articulated as the shorthand of culture – ‘this is how we will behave’. However, unless they’re explored, they become just a poster on the wall, or words on the website. Consider:

  • How are the values reflected in day to day actions?
  • What processes and procedures contradict values and which support?
  • Do our customer journeys enable us to keep our promises?

Through exploration values are distilled into a description of behaviours. And most importantly, working practices need to evolve which support keeping organisational culture on track, for example; how we share information and make decisions, how we share learning and how we overcome challenges together.

Team engagement is in the day to day interactions and working practices.

Translate organisational objectives into chunked down meaning

Just like vision, strategy is often communicated at the ‘big picture’ level and it can be difficult for people to translate into what this means for their day to day work.

Objective setting ensures departments play their part in delivering the strategy, but often this is lost in translation. 

Objectives become a set of initiatives to deliver, rather than describing a meaningful outcome. The OKR method, described in John Doerres book, ‘Measure What Matters’, tackles this issue and it’s a method effectively used by the likes of Google. It ensures the number of departmental objectives are limited, that they are specifically aligned with strategy and avoid cross departmental conflicts.

Everyone should be clear how their objectives contribute to organisational objectives – they should be able to trace the line back up to a key organisational deliverable.

Team engagement follows because everyone understands their purpose in achieving the organisational purpose.

Growing pains minimised, disengagement reduced

When organisational teams are guided through the ‘growing up’ process it means the growing pains are minimised and disengagement is reduced. Culture is co-created by the people within a system (organisation) and by paying attention to the process of co-creation a positive result can be achieved – the good stuff is retained and more good stuff added. Teams are able to interpret chunked up info into day to day meaning, becoming empowered and most importantly accountable – taking responsibility for their actions and delivering outstanding results, enabling them to bring the ‘grown up’ to work.

Lyn specialises in helping teams to translate vision, strategy and values into day to day behaviours, working practices and objectives, meaning that what gets delivered in in line with organisational purpose. She facilitates workshops which engage teams through discussion and exploration, using a variety of methods which keep it interesting and interactive. Contact her at or 07950 914328.