Team Building 101: Shared Identity

Shared Identity is arguably the most important aspect of building a team; transforming a group of individuals into a cohesive, focused team. The concept of “Shared Identity” can be divided into four subcategories: Vision/Values/Mission, strategic priorities, goals and measures of success.



Having an organization-wide understanding of the vision, values and mission and its leadership is vital to any meaningful work being done toward achieving the stated vision and living the organization’s values. There are various tried and true processes to support leadership is clarifying the organization's values and crafting a cohesive organizational vision and mission. This work must be done by the leaders and in best-case scenario, include the input of the organization’s stakeholders. All of them.

Here are some excellent resources to help you operationalize the concepts of values, vision and mission:

·       Mental Model Process

·       Team Charter Process

·       10 Lessons In Defining Your Company Values

Sports teams, like the Warriors, have the benefit of having an easily defined mission: to win the championship. The values the organizations employ to achieve that mission is much more customized. Think about how different each team operates - the number of shots they take, the amount of sharing of the spotlight that goes on, how they respond to adversity, etc. Once a mission has been crafted, we typically like to jump to strategy – how to accomplish the mission. Before jumping to strategy, it is vital to define the organization’s values and what these values look/sound/feel like in operation that will expedite the work of strategizing and build organizational and team alignment.

With your values, vision and mission crafted, and regularly communicated through various channels and actions, your group of individuals has a “north star” to aim for. This is the beginning of shifting the group to a team, since now they all have a singular focus of their efforts and an understanding of how to move together to achieve their goal. Likely the vision/mission you crafted is lofty - and it should be! So now you need to identify the strategies you are going to pursue to achieve that vision with the resources and bandwidth your organization has.


Strategic Priorities

The strategic priorities, in non-jargon, are the areas that the organization is going to focus on to achieve its mission/vision. Want to win an NBA championship? Then the strategic priorities are to increase defense and the number of offensive weapons on your team. If you mission is to end homelessness, your priorities might be to increase affordable housing options. It could just as easily be to increase the amount of entry-level job trainings available or to create a community of small, subsidized housing units for the homeless. All these are different strategies to achieve the mission; the one or two you choose to pursue make them strategic priorities.

The most effective process I have come across and use to help organizations define their strategic priorities is The Workshop Method.


Goals, Tactics & Measures of Success

So you are now clear on your mission, the values you are going to practice and what your strategic priorities are for achieving your mission/vision. Now comes time to begin operationalizing your plan; creating some smaller goals to work towards and define how success will be measured. Basically, it comes down to answering two questions:

      What are our shared team goals and deliverables?

      How will we measure our success?

The Warriors wanted to win another NBA Championship. To get there they set a goal of winning their division and conference. They measured success by the number of games they won. Your organization likely has less clear goals and deliverables and even less clear measures of success. If your mission is to end homelessness and your strategic priority is to increase affordable housing, then your goals are likely to increase the number of affordable housing units available and to transition as many homeless individuals into those units as possible. In this instance, the metrics of success are # of affordable housing units and # of homeless individuals transitioned into affordable housing units.

The above three areas (Mission/Vision/Values, Strategic Priorities and Measures of Success), together, support a group in coming together and becoming a team with a shared identity. These three steps are vital to any group hoping to accomplish great feats. That being said, having a shared identity is just the beginning of creating a high performing team.

Next week we will explore the second pillar or high performing teams: Clear Roles & Structures.

"Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. " ~ Vince Lombardi