Types of Objectives
Working in any team collaboration requires balancing multiple objectives. There are usually constraints of some kind, time and/or money being the most common, that necessitate making choices between which objectives take precedence or receive more resources at any given time. For any individual working in a team collaboration, there are similar prioritization decisions being made, and balancing these types of objectives is critical for our healthy and productive contributions to any team collaboration.
The most common competing types of objectives that all of us have to balance are:
Your needs as an individual
Your needs as an individual can include objectives like professional advancement, mental health, and work-life balance. These types of objectives are always present although the specific goals may change through time, and many of them can be undefined or unconscious. Keeping these types of objectives at the forefront of your mind at least part of the time is vital for ensuring that your needs are being met in a team collaboration, and to identify and address obstacles that prevent you from fulfilling those needs. You are the only one who can set these types of objectives for yourself, and the first one who should prioritize them.
Achieving these goals usually requires communicating about them with your team lead(s) and/or supervisor(s), and in a supportive environment that should be sufficient to motivate them to help you balance those objectives with other types of objectives. In an unsupportive environment, you may have to be more creative in working to fulfill those needs. This will be discussed more in part four, how to approach good vs. challenging team environments.
Team cohesion objectives include goals like preserving team harmony, working to resolve interpersonal conflicts that arise, and preserving relationships with specific members that you will likely work with again. These types of objectives are not usually ones that any single team member (including a team lead) can achieve on their own, but anyone can work to help prioritize them. Some industries and organizations explicitly value some of these types of objectives as just as important as project objectives, but many industries and organizations do not. Regardless, team cohesion is vital to any team’s performance and often is highly influential for how healthy the team environment is for its members.
Cohesion doesn’t require close personal relationships between all team members, but it does require healthy communication and mutual respect between all team members. These types of objectives are often long-term or continuous for the life of the team. Any team member can advocate for them or work towards achieving them although power dynamics within the team will influence how and in what way a team member will be able to contribute to these goals. This will be discussed further in parts five, analyzing power dynamics in a team context, and seven, conflict resolution strategies from a non-leadership position.
Project objectives are usually the most visible and emphasized for any team collaboration, and include goals like preserving project timeline and producing all project deliverables. The team was constructed with the purpose of achieving these goals, and of course all team members can and should do their part to achieve them. However, these goals should be treated as just one type of objectives of the above three that are valuable to you as an individual and the team as a whole, rather than the only valuable ones as is the case in some organizations and industries.
Each of these types of objectives may be top priority for you at different times, but be aware of which one you (and other team members) are prioritizing and which, if any, are being deprioritized, over time. All three are important to maintain in balance, both for you as an individual and to maintain a healthy team dynamic. You may not always be in a position to influence other team members, but you can always control how you personally approach a team project and whether you are keeping all three types of objectives in mind for yourself.