How to Define Your Team’s Purpose

How to Define Your Team’s Purpose
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Do You Need to Define Your Team’s Purpose?
We know from leadership simulation assessment data that the ability to define your team’s purpose separates high performing leaders from average team leaders.  A good team purpose clarifies for everyone:

Why the Ability to Define Your Team’s Purpose Matters
Not having a good team purpose increases the risk of misalignment and ambiguity, which counteracts the conditions necessary for the team to do their best work.  We know from organizational culture assessment data that high performing teams have a clear and agreed upon team purpose that everyone can rally around.  This purposeful strategic clarity creates higher levels of:

  • Team Engagement and Commitment
    Clarity of team purpose leads to high levels of team engagement and commitment.  When team members understand and buy into what the team is trying to achieve and how their job helps the team and the organization achieve success, their intent to stay and “give it their all” increases.
  • Team Decision Making and Focus
    Clarity of purpose leads to better team decision making.  An agreed upon sense of team purpose and direction provides a framework against which choices can be evaluated.
  • Team Collaboration and Communication
    A shared and meaningful purpose helps to align how work gets done.  It is easier for teams to coordinate information and resources when everyone is on the same page.

An Approach to Define Your Team’s Purpose So That It Sticks
Enduring team purpose statements are co-created by everyone on the team. Co-creation is a process of discovery and design that involves all key stakeholders. While involving all key stakeholders might sound like it will take too much time and effort, the reality is that most team goals, decisions, and processes do not last because team members were not involved in their design.  That leaves some team members feeling like rules have been imposed on them.  They feel left out, unmotivated, and uncommitted.

To define your team’s purpose so that it lasts, give team members a significant say in designing them. When given the right opportunity and psychological team safety, people want to design how they engage with and contribute to the organization.  Coming together in this manner galvanizes the team to their shared identity and drives a commitment level in a way that simply being told the purpose never could.

This approach of actively involving the team in strategic planning helps to shift everyone’s mentality to an ownership mindset because people have higher levels of ownership to things they help to create. Intrinsic motivation exponentially increases when individuals feel connected to the team and when they believe in the work they’re doing together.  When you and your team agree on the team’s purpose, everyone understands how to stay focused on priorities, push back on work that they shouldn’t be doing, and clarify the role of the team for others in the organization.

3 Main Questions to Answer
To generate a personal, relevant, and actionable team purpose, we recommend using storytelling, strategic thinking, and collaboration to design something that everyone wants to be part of.  Based on design thinking techniques, team leaders that create empathy with their teams and stakeholders reframe challenges in a way that enables other to contribute to a shared solution.  Start by collectively answering these three questions related to:

  1. Strategic Clarity
    What does your team do and why is it important to the company?
  2. Stakeholders
    Who benefits from your team’s work and why does it matter?
  3. Impact
    How does your work have impact and how do you know?

The Bottom Line
When team members share responsibility for developing a team direction they share responsibility for executing against it.  The collaborative process of crafting a purpose statement will help you to create the right words and the right impact as a unified team. When done, the team should agree and commit to upon how the organization needs the team to contribute, how success will be measured, and why the work truly matters.

To learn more about how to define your team’s purpose, download  Sample Team Charter Template

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