Leadership Essentials: Providing Teams with a Meaningful Team Purpose
Why Providing Teams with Purpose Requires Effort
Defining a clear purpose for your team is one of the most important things you can do as a leader to minimize team performance risks. You put in the time, gained buy-in from the team, and have a meaningful purpose statement to inspire and guide them. But now what?
Unless leaders and team members actively work to keep their purpose alive, it will only exist in the past rather than guiding the future. Ensure your team’s purpose statement continues to be the North Star that guides the team’s work with the help of the following tips.
Open every meeting with your purpose statement
Starting every meeting with a review of your purpose statement may seem obvious and simple, but it can be very powerful. Events like training, workshops, or retreats often bring a fresh perspective and make us more excited about our work. But then we put the workshop materials on a shelf and dust off our inspiration only when we come across it while looking for something else. Reminding the team of their purpose as the first item on every meeting agenda frames the discussion and keeps the team’s purpose at the forefront.
Additionally, new team members are immediately connected to the team’s purpose with this approach, which can shorten the learning curve respective to team priorities.
Reflect on your purpose as a group when competing priorities arise
Teams are often pulled in many directions, with daily opportunities for focus to be taken away from their purpose. You can quickly reestablish priorities for your team when needed by referring to the team’s purpose statement. Here’s a sample purpose statement for the consulting team at Executive Coaches, Inc.:
We coach executives at start-ups so they can become better leaders of high-performing teams that help grow the business.
Clients have recently approached the consulting team with requests to extend Executive Coaches’ offering to directors or managers within their organizations, with the consultants granting these requests occasionally to keep the clients happy. However, clients are now making this request more frequently and cutting into the time consultants have each day to coach executives, who are the firm’s key stakeholders. At this point, these are competing priorities that can potentially hurt the business in the long-term. Referring back to the purpose statement as a reminder of where their focus should remain is a good practice for the consulting team when such occasions arise.
Revisit your purpose as needed to respond to external change
While your team’s purpose statement should be stable and not subject to changes on a whim, there are times when an update is warranted. Any shift to the company’s mission, what the team delivers, to whom they deliver it, or the impact of team efforts merits revisiting the purpose statement.
In the example above, if the strategy of Executive Coaches, Inc. changes to include coaching mid-level managers, the consulting team’s purpose statement should reflect this expansion of stakeholders:
We coach executives and mid-level managers at start-ups so they can become better leaders of high-performing teams that help grow the business.
It is a small change, but necessary to accurately reflect to whom the consulting team is providing their coaching services. Clarity creates alignment and is important to bring your purpose statement to life.
Identify obstacles to the fulfillment of the team’s purpose statement
The path to fulfillment is not always easy because obstacles such as competing priorities are just one thing that can stand in the way. Suppose team members are under stress due to unmet needs for anything from workload management to dedicated one on one time with leadership. In that case, they may not have the energy or tools necessary to propel the team’s purpose. Additionally, conflict among team members divides focus. If the consultants at Executive Coaches, Inc. are experiencing widespread disagreement or even mutual irritation, it’s likely both the quality of their work and team morale will suffer. As a leader, you should continually be on the lookout for any factors that might prevent purpose statement fulfillment and provide a safe environment for team members to openly share obstacles they encounter.
Share your purpose statement with other teams
Communicating your team’s purpose statement to others provides them with useful information regarding your team’s priorities and potential early intervention to requests that do not align with those priorities. It’s certainly not guaranteed that others will always respect your team’s focus or that you will not have to repeat the purpose statement more than once. But when your team members have their purpose statement to stand on, it provides the foundation for productive discourse with others regarding priorities.
Without intentional effort to keep your team’s purpose alive, it will perish long before it can have a meaningful impact on team performance. This effort is the difference between the purpose statement being a North Star and a shooting star, so be sure to keep it shining brightly.
For more information on instilling purpose in your team, consider our High-Performing Teams workshop. You’ll build the foundation for your team to become a high-performing team.