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How To Create A Shared Team Vision

By Tony Watson, professor of organisational behaviour, Nottingham University Business School.

Over the years I have worked in and studied HR departments where I have witnessed the various tensions between HR people and their managerial colleagues. One of these is the issue of the language HR people use. My experience is that all too often, HR people can be naïve, underestimating the importance of the impact of language, and this is especially true when it comes to creating an effective team vision.

So how should an HR department go about creating a shared team vision for staff? Well, to put it bluntly, it shouldn't. So why write this article? Because there is still an important leadership task that needs to be done in every HR department, section or function.

Bad language

What so often gets in the way of achieving this important purpose is the use of the pseudo-religious language of 'vision'. We have all heard the sotto voce groans of middle managers and others in meetings where senior managers have addressed them in the language of mission, vision, passion, and all the rest. It seriously risks creating cynicism within the 'team'.

So if you are leading a group of HR staff, don't talk at them in the language of the evangelical preacher or the football manager. Instead, talk with them at regular intervals about how they are deploying (and might deploy more effectively) the skills and competencies that they possess (or might acquire) to contribute to the long-term successful performance of the organisation as a whole.


While it is a good tactic to adopt a clear 'steering' or 'shaping' role within these conversations, they should also have an element of negotiation about them. Work with the group to define a clear understanding of just what the priorities of the organisation are, and what contributions HR can and cannot not make to the furthering of these - across the whole of your 'patch' and into the long-term. Don't take for granted strategic statements from above, and encourage every member of the HR team to contribute ideas that can be taken into conversations with top management.


This type of process is vital if HR is to increase its credibility with senior management and demonstrate that it is 'business-minded'. At the same time, a similar exercise ought to be undertaken to build credibility with other non-HR managers by demonstrating in practice how HR can, as a group of mutually supporting colleagues, be effective in bringing together its own departmental priorities with those of the business as a whole.

This relatively simple language might seem rather boring compared to talk of winning teams and visionary management. However, it is the language of the realities with which HR departments have to live and within which they work to be effective.

Expert's view: Dominic Mellonie, HR management consultant

What are the biggest challenges?

  • Getting an HR team that has the commercial integrity within the company.
  • Understanding the 'big questions' and being able to contribute to the answers. This is easier said than done at times - the HR teams (especially HR directors) need to get out there and see for themselves what is happening in the company, talk to colleagues across the business, and look at how HR as a function can address the issues.

What should you avoid?

Don't look inwardly - look towards the business. HR will be judged on what it delivers on, not how it is structured or what title it wishes to be known by. Don't wait for things to happen - get out there and make it happen. Become corporate heroes through your actions, rather than your words or desires.

Three top tips

Make sure you have an HR team that "gets the business", and ensure that the meetings at all levels within HR reflect what's happening in the business.

Don't wait to be invited - get out there, see what's happening and work with the business pro-actively to either enhance or avoid, depending on the issue. Get your hands dirty.

Get HR to lead by example in commercial terms - get them seen as an integral part of the commercial drive of the business, rather than a 'necessary evil'. This is particularly important for HR directors - you can't lead the battle charge if you don't know how to ride a horse.

If you only do 5 things

  1. Speak the same language
  2. Get out and about
  3. Adopt a clear strategy
  4. Contribute to senior decisions
  5. Understand the business.

Alinga Consulting Group

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