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  • Writer's pictureThrive Inc.

Getting Everyone Rowing in the Same Direction

Continuing with our Beauty of Conflict for Teams series, this week we’re talking about the importance of getting everyone on the team rowing in the same direction. This idea of everybody working towards the same goals and objectives is so important, especially in the virtual world.

Getting everyone rowing in the same direction is critical to a team’s functionality, and various factors can sometimes get in the way of this. But becoming more aware of what’s going on with individuals on your team as well as the larger team dynamic can really help maintain a healthy, successful, happy working environment. After all, it is the various viewpoints and perspectives that make a team so effective.

Join us this week as we discuss why having both narrow focus and bigger picture focus in your team are crucial, and why one is not more important than the other. We discuss the importance of having a leader who can build team trust in an organization, and how being aware of a multitude of viewpoints can help you stop missing windows of opportunity to do business better.

If you’d like us to speak at your organization about conflict, stress, team-building, or leadership, work with your team virtually, or coach you or leaders on your team, reach out to us!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Learn More:

  • How working together wins the race.

  • The importance of acknowledging patterns in your team and organization.

  • How taking a bigger view of the business can strengthen a team.

  • What factors can get in the way of getting everyone rowing in the same direction.

  • The problem with being stuck in narrow focus.

  • Why having a collective goal can benefit your team.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

Susan: We are starting 2021 with a series based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Teams. We’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team work more effectively especially in this remote and virtual environment. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode and this series with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

Hi. I’m Susan.

CrisMarie: And I’m CrisMarie.

Susan: And today we’re continuing our Beauty of Conflict for Teams podcast series which is basically covering different aspects of our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage.

CrisMarie: Yeah, we’re covering different chapters for you to get a little snippet so hopefully you’ll buy the book. It’s available on Amazon.

Susan: So this week we are going to be coming from chapter 24 which is.

CrisMarie: Get Everyone Rowing in the Same Direction.

Susan: And let’s face it, the expert on that happens to be CrisMarie from her rowing days. So she’s going to kick our podcast off today.

CrisMarie: Well, for those of you that don’t know me I was a rower at the University of Washington, and then I went onto the national team, and eventually the 88 Olympic team for the United States. And one of the things in my training, I wasn’t an athlete growing up so all this sport stuff was new for me. And when I got on the team and got to the Varsity level, the coach would every Friday put our names in a hat, draw out random line-ups and we’d race. He called them ham and eggers. And it was always stressful because you’re trying to figure out what’s happening.

Well, one year I won 15 out of 18 and it wasn’t, you know, I don’t know if that’s because I’m an awesome rower. Certainly I was good, but I was in the stroke position which is the leadership position. But one thing that I did before we got on the water is I’d pull this new collection of people, these were, you know, we had 15, 13 people on the team so I’d pull these eight people together, nine including me and the coxswain.

And say, “Hey, I know it doesn’t look like we can win”, as we looked over to this boat stacked with Varsity rowers. “But if we pull together, if we believe we can win we will. And I want you to hold on to that belief even if we’re down in the race and keep pulling because we can create magic.” And we did. And I think that focus on helping people, one, connect at the beginning of a race because here we were put in this random line-up. And having that belief, and desire, and against the odds really helped.

Susan: So I love the story of the ham and eggers. And I do think yes, you are extraordinary. But probably also one of the things you did exceptionally well was pulling people together. But I thought one of the things when we were getting ready and talking about today’s podcast that was interesting was you were looking at it through even through a different lens than maybe you had before.

But one thing that you knew for sure was that there was a way in which Bob was trying to figure out who could make boats go faster. Get in the boat and row as fast as you can. And most people, that was kind of what they did. They got in the boat and did the work, whereas we’re talking today, or when we were prepping for this about how really was probably looking for, and developing flexibility so that people didn’t just get used to rowing with the same people, were able to adjust and make that switch.

CrisMarie: Yeah, looking for flexibility and yeah, changing circumstances, how can I make this collection of people, not just focusing on am I winning the race, but how are we going to work together to win this race.

Susan: Yeah. And that really does address and talk about what we believe is so critical in this idea of rowing together that you have to have both a…

CrisMarie: You mean getting everyone rowing in the same direction, that chapter 24?

Susan: I think rowing together is pretty close, but yes, everyone rowing in the same direction. And that a big part of what gets in the way of that has to do with the way that different people look at things. And some people…

CrisMarie: Well, just even I think about just even getting in that boat and focusing, I’m just going to work hard. I’m just going to do my part is so much like people in business who think, no, no, we’re going to succeed. If I just focus on my area and do my part then everything should work out right.

Susan: And a lot of times when that focus is happening like that, you may actually miss the impact it’s having on other team members, or something that’s outside of that narrow lens of focus.

CrisMarie: It’s true, that narrow, I’m focused on me, my team, my success in business really can miss so many different things. So this chapter is really about noticing and being aware of a wide focus, a more strategic, a bigger picture focus and also the narrow focus, both are important. I think what we find when we’re working with CEOs and teams is, especially if the leader has a propensity to just focus on one or the other.

Susan: It can be problematic.

CrisMarie: Bad things happen. And we keep trying to tell them, “Hey, this isn’t working for you.”

Susan: And it doesn’t mean you have to be good at both but you need to know which one you’re good at and which one you’re not so good at so that you can create and have the team around you that’s going to help you when you need to go differently. We each have very different styles.

CrisMarie: Yes, I would agree.

Susan: Mine tends to be more big picture, looking further out, maybe not paying as much attention to the detail, strategic. And this happens. How are we going to get this stuff done now, we need this now?

CrisMarie: So, Susan, I do think you have a great strategic mind. You are always thinking so creative and you tie so many different dots together. And it’s a big thrust of why we keep creating the things that we do. And yeah, sometimes you’re not so good on the details. And I can get very focused on the details and miss the bigger picture. But I am definitely how are we going to get that done? Those of you that are not watching the video, I’m slapping my hands together because it’s like come on, what do we need to do?

And so I’m a finisher and a follow through person. And the combination of us really helps.

Susan: Although I want to make a point of saying obviously you have both because in that ham and egger story you were actually discussing how you were the one who actually thought of, hey, it’s not just about me getting in that boat and making it go faster, it’s actually about getting this whole group together. So you did have a wide focus there. And often if I can get you out of some driven tactic, you can also go to a wide focus.

CrisMarie: I think I have much more flexibility. I think you have a big strategic mind. I have a strategic mind and I’d like to see things actually happen, that’s something that I’m quite driven by.

Susan: So I mean, and the way we see this show up, we’ve worked with CEOs who are much more like they’re great at firefighting. And as a matter of fact that’s actually kind of – there are companies usually are demonstrations of that. They’re often putting out fires.

CrisMarie: Well, they stay in this firefighting cycle because they’re very tactical. They think they need to be involved in everything. They don’t have time to deal with this other stuff, whether it’s leadership development or bigger picture thinking, all that stuff because no, this is so urgent.

And what winds up happening is they are in meetings all day long, sometimes on weekends. And they think that’s normal and they reward people who are like them. So they keep getting more and more tactical people which is not really very helpful at all because you really miss windows of opportunity to do the business better.

Susan: Now, we have worked with some companies where we have been with the leaders of those companies, going through some highs and lows. So it doesn’t always, you know, firefighting doesn’t always hit the fire, it’s sometimes a good burn in the woods is a good thing, it brings growth. But the problem is firefighting all the time; you’re going to have these cycles.

And I was thinking of one situation where we were working with someone who their company really has had some amazing performance. But we’re often trying to remind them to look at also the pattern because they also seem to have pretty regular times where the same thing keeps happening.

CrisMarie: Yeah. I think when they get stuck in the, we’re really succeeding they think this is all there will ever be. And when they were struggling for cash flow because they have invested too much in the good times they’re like, “Oh my gosh, we’re not going to survive.” And it’s actually looking at, okay, how did you create that success? And what are the factors that created this dip?

And stepping back and looking at those patterns, which is what we do when we do a quarterly offsite or an annual offsite, we’re helping them connect those dots of those successes and failures. So they can repeat the successes but mitigate the failures.

Susan: Because with this particular company there is also seasonal issues that regularly dictate, even though you can’t really predict that there’s going to be a certain level of maintenance issues or a certain level of production issues. We’ve been with them long enough to know there are patterns. And so that’s where a strategic focus would be really helpful like can, you know, that maybe it’s not going to be the same thing obviously. But there is going to be things like that that are going to happen.

CrisMarie: And looking at the financial patterns. Have you created too much debt that when you’re in a good time that’s not a problem, but in leaner times all of a sudden now you’re surviving just trying to feed the debt.

Susan: And we’ve also seen situations and worked with companies where someone has a much bigger focus all the time. And what we mean by that is it maybe they are really interested in selling the company and this can happen with a startup [crosstalk].

CrisMarie: We’ve had actually three different companies that we’ve worked with where this seemed to be the drive for the executive team. And it’s not that it’s bad, of course you want to sell your company, or IPO it, or have the next big research and development thing. But it’s like at the cost of these other 5,000 people that are following you or the rest of the business.

Susan: Or yeah, what may also, especially I was thinking of that research development one where it’s like, yes, that next big opportunity is out there. But you also have these things that have gotten you to where you are now, that if you don’t pay attention. And there are actually people in your organization that are important to nurture and bring along. And so again what we’re suggesting is you really want some of both.

And these different styles can actually be really at odds with each other unless there’s someone who can help build that team trust and goodwill so that people know, hey, even though your style is very different than mine it’s helpful.

CrisMarie: We’re talking about the polarization, when somebody gets stuck in that narrow tactical focus. Or somebody gets stuck in that strategic next best thing. And we’re saying, “Hey, you have to balance both.” And so what we have found really works well is setting up meetings that have different focus areas.

Having a weekly narrow focus or tactical meeting where you are talking about the blocking and tackling, moving forward on your goals, this is what I need from you right now. How are we going to get this done by the end of the week? That’s a very narrow tactical focus and important to have on your team.

Susan: We also think having that strategic opportunity at least on a monthly basis. And for a team that has a lot of strategic, that’s their energy source, you may need to have it a little more frequently. Or for, if you’ve never looked at it you’re going to need to put it in there more frequently because you have some issues that need to be brought up.

CrisMarie: I agree, Susan, just on that point because so often when we were working with a team, they are so focused on the blocking and tackling they haven’t taken the time for those strategic meetings. So they kind of are in a deficit so they have to have more to start out.

Susan: Yes. Or I mean I think about us and I think yeah, fine, I could have a tactical meeting, but I need to have some juicy strategic stuff to talk about. Or I kind of get lost in my week sometimes.

CrisMarie: I think that’s true Susan. I think if you’re not in – because I think the strategic stuff can inspire people, it’s what are we going to do? Who are we going to become, whatever, accomplish? And that juice feeds the rest of the business. I think that’s a really good point.

Susan: Yeah. I mean I think of the clients I coach with and it’s like one of the things, I can tell the difference because the coaching clients that are strategic, they really like to use me as a sounding board because they don’t get enough of that actually. And they’re just blocking and solving problems in their workspace and so they want that rich opportunity. And then there are the ones who are like, “I never have any strategic time on my calendar.” And it’s like I can almost count on the fact I’m guessing you’re always solving problems. And that’s just very different.

And I know from my own experience I need to have both on a fairly regular basis.

CrisMarie: But that’s I think just a good – think about you listener, what really creates the juice for you? Is it getting things done? Or are you actually missing, especially in this virtual environment, are you having enough time where your team is stepping back?

What we mean by strategic or wide focus is you take one or two topics and you really usually have some pre work. You deep dive. You really get into the conversation so that you pop out with a solution or kind of a direction versus tactical is like this is a problem, this is a problem. We’re solving that. It’s quick and short term, but that strategic is one or two topics that you can really sink your teeth in, and that is really satisfying for teams usually.

Susan: And I don’t know. I may be taking us off on another branch.

CrisMarie: Okay, Susan, what are you doing Susan?

Susan: Well, because of us bringing up this whole thing that’s come up, especially during the pandemic and over the last year. And how if I kept trying to solve the problem, there was no way to solve the problem. So what was most useful to me was how can I be of service? And I actually think of those two, is somewhat the difference between – problem focused means you’ve narrowed in on a particular problem.

CrisMarie: Narrow.

Susan: Narrow focus, when you’re thinking service you usually are looking wider, who am I serving? How am I serving? What am I serving? And that’s another lens for the same dynamic and a good one. But I know we’ve found helpful to talk about because if you’re just trying to – well, how are we going to have clients?

CrisMarie: How do we solve Covid?

Susan: Or figure out how we’re going to make money or keep our business going in a time when we can’t even go out of the house. But if we change it to okay, think bigger picture, at some point something will shift. How can we be in service of what we do now? Yeah.

CrisMarie: And I think that being of service, that’s that engagement. And it’s that heart space which a lot of times those strategic projects, that wider view you really do want to engage the hearts and souls of people, not just how can I solve this problem with my mind?

Susan: I was fascinated and I don’t know how this is going to pan out. But we’re in the midst of this Covid crisis and trying to get the vaccines out. And what I found CrisMarie this morning, I was looking at an article and I guess Biden has now gotten these two big companies, Johnson & Johnson and Merck, they’re going to work together. They are competing companies to produce this vaccines. Now, I think that is really phenomenal and I think companies are trying to really pull together to make this happen.

And I did read in it that one of the companies wasn’t responding to the questions about it. So I don’t know how it’s really going to go.

CrisMarie: Let’s hope, fingers crossed.

Susan: But here is a situation where usually there’s this competition and it’s like we really need to collaborate for this bigger purpose, this wider service purpose. And if you get narrowed in on, but how does this serve our business?

CrisMarie: What about me? Yeah.

Susan: It’s like kind of the ham and eggers. You might miss the chance to really take the entire boat across the line. So I think there’s so many ways in which this applies and yet both are what we inherently do. And we have an opportunity to go, how can we expand?

CrisMarie: I love that. So the way you can build these rhythms in, because we tend to have gaps is that weekly tactical, that monthly strategic. And as Susan was saying, hey, you will probably have a deficit, so you might have to have ad hoc strategic meetings to talk about key topics all the way down till you get to a plan of action. And those are two to four hours in length conversation. It’s a little bit different online, maybe one to three hours.

And then the quarterly offsite is really where you start to go more wide because you’re looking at quarterly, how did we do? What worked? What didn’t? What are we going to do this quarter? What’s important for our long term? And it’s really taking more time to step back, how are our people doing?

It’s taking a much bigger view of the business and also on an annual basis. What do we want to do next year? What are our main four corners, the general gist of what we’re going to do and our people and how are we financially? It’s looking at all those levels. And how are we getting along as a team?

Susan: It could also be in that idea of looking back and seeing, yes, things look different but are there patterns? And that’s a big thing sometimes to look at, that may get missed. Because things start moving quickly and you don’t have the opportunity. I mean if nothing else this year has taught us, that sometimes you have lots of opportunities to look at things and then things start moving again. And it’s like, okay, let’s move.

CrisMarie: Yeah. Now what are we going to do?

Susan: How do we keep at a pace that makes sense and takes care of both the narrow and the wide?

CrisMarie: And one of the tools that we use, we use with our clients. Well, one, we help them with their meeting rhythm, which really helps kind of make sure these focus areas are taken care of. But also this idea about having a collective goal, this is kind of back to the ham and egger. If I’m just worried about me, my area, I’m in a boat. I have to care about these other people. We’re rowing together. But so often in business, and especially in a virtual environment it’s really easy to go, “You know what? I’m just going to get my work done. As long as my team’s looking good then we’re good.”

And that’s really minimizing the impact of the job that you can do. So we talk about this idea about having the team that you’re a member of, that having a collective goal. So that it has a top line, kind of like a strategic, an inspirational oomph. And then it’s got buckets of activity that need to be done. Those are kind of the objectives. And then it’s got metrics below that. So you don’t want to increase sales by 20%, not so inspirational.

Susan: Well, some of you may be inspired.

CrisMarie: Maybe, it would be.

Susan: Just say from a collective perspective that’s a little too specific.

CrisMarie: But of what we did in Covid is how can we be of service during this lockdown? And then we had different ways that we did that, podcast or videos, reaching out to clients, offering coaching. I think we had, in a month we had a 100 different coaching sessions because we coached people for their stress. So we found we started talking about stress and giving tools for it. So those were the ways that really aligned us in a time period that could have been just miserable. But we found some strategic oomph, would you say Susan?

Susan: Yes, I would say so. And as a result of that now we’re in a different, you know, it’s a year later and we’re looking back and we’re seeing, what were the highlights of that? And what, if anything do we want to keep continuing? And we encourage businesses and teams to do that.

CrisMarie: To stop and say, “What worked? What didn’t? And what do we want to do differently? What do we want to continue or reinforce?” That stepping back is so powerful to do, at least on a quarterly basis to really get clear and reinforce the behaviors that you want and the direction that you want.

Susan: So I hope this has been helpful. Well, it’s been fun to kind of talk about and think about it from a number of different lenses. And remembering that you too can row together, even though I know I’m going to get the corrected line now.

CrisMarie: You get people rowing the same direction.

Susan: In the same direction.

CrisMarie: And that’s just so critical in business. And it’s even critical in your families. Think about do you actually take time to have deeper conversations with your spouse, with your kids? Maybe you have because you’ve been locked in the same place. Or maybe you’ve been trying to get away from each other, but talking about those things, having those things that spark your heart, or really connect are very powerful.

Susan: I think probably now more than ever, it’s important. I think for a while there during this period of Covid, people were just, “I just have to survive day-to-day and what puzzle can I do now?”

CrisMarie: I’m still doing that.

Susan: Yeah. And now it’s like okay, maybe what could I get excited about longer term that means something to me, that gives me some meaning and purpose right now? Because we could talk about it, we could, you know, I don’t know whether we’re going to do it or not yet, or we could do it. But it’s kind of fun to start planning bigger picture.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And so just notice in yourself what is missing? Do you spend more time in the big picture and don’t actually take care and follow through and get things done? Or are you more of I’m going to get everything done. And you miss kind of the juice that can come from bigger picture inspirational thinking. Both are important and we encourage you if you’re on a team, make sure you speak up and ask for what you need like, “Hey, I think we need to have a strategic meeting because this is a big topic.”

Because so often you’re trying to solve those strategic topics on a weekly tactical when you’ve got six minutes. It’s like, “Now we’re going to talk about something else.” You don’t have the time to really deep dive. So be sure to get the narrow and wide focus balance on your team. And if you were interested in what we had to say, you can check out The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage on Amazon. And certainly reach out to us if you would like us to work with you or your team.

Susan: Take care.

Susan: Wow, CrisMarie, I have sure been enjoying doing this series for teams and utilizing our chapters from our book The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage. It’s been fun to go back and review the material and apply it to virtual teams.

CrisMarie: It’s true. And it’s so much good bite sized material in these chapters, I mean if I do say so myself. And if you want us to speak at your organization, or work with your team, yes, virtually, we’ve been doing that, team sessions, or coach you or leaders on your team, please reach out to us. You can check us out at our website, that’s or send us an email, write to us directly, we’re happy to chat,, that’s Okay, take care.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Download the eBook, How to Talk About Difficult Topics, today!

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