April 23, 2024
High Performance Teams: Team Purpose

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Team Purpose: How to create the right foundation

Have you ever wondered what makes a truly successful team? It’s not just having a bunch of talented individuals; it’s about their sense of team purpose and how they work together to achieve their goals. For a team to succeed, its members need to have their own identity, vision, and purpose. When everyone knows how their role fits into the larger goals, individuals and teams are more motivated, engaged, and productive.

Without a clear understanding of how their daily tasks contribute to the bigger picture, team members can feel lost and disconnected. With only 23% of employees engaged at work, seeing that golden thread between their role in the team’s results and how this aligns with strategic goals can improve engagement and provide meaning to their work.

This blog post will help you unite team members toward common goals. Discover a simple framework to guide conversations with your team members and learn some best practices to increase engagement and improve productivity.

The importance of team purpose

First, let’s go over what we mean by identity, vision, and purpose.

Individual identities are unique, reflecting personal traits, experiences, and values, while a team’s identity shapes how team members work together, communicate, and tackle challenges. This creates a strong bond, builds trust, and improves teamwork.

If we take a nonprofit organisation, for example, having a strong sense of identity and purpose to address social or environmental challenges and make a positive impact on a local community brings volunteers and staff members together. This shared identity and purpose inspires collective action, volunteering, and advocacy efforts, leading to real change and progress toward achieving goals.

While identity and purpose define who the team is and what it believes in and gives meaning, the vision outlines where a team wants to go and what it hopes to achieve. 

Here at LIW, our purpose is “to improve lives by transforming people’s experience of work through leadership.” It guides everything we do as a team and helps us decide what actions to take, what decisions to make, and what strategies to follow. It shapes the direction we’re heading in and the impact we hope to have. 

Teams that have a clear identity, vision, and purpose reap the benefits: 

  • Increased employee engagement. When team members have a sense of purpose and ownership, they put extra effort into and are interested in their work.
  • Improved alignment. When everyone understands and shares the team’s vision, purpose, and mission, it ensures that all efforts are aligned towards common goals–reducing silos (more on this next) and duplication of tasks.
  • Increased collaboration and decision making. Shared vision, purpose, and mission promote teamwork as individuals come together to share new ways of working and find creative solutions to problems.
  • Greater resilience. Clarity on the team’s vision, purpose, and mission helps team members stay focused and resilient during change and uncertainty.
  • Improved communication. When everyone understands the team’s goals, it encourages open discussions and transparency. This means team members can freely share ideas and concerns, leading to better collaboration and information sharing.
  • Enhanced performance. When team members have a shared vision, purpose, and mission, they are motivated to do their best work, enhancing individual performance.

Differentiate results from performance and environment: The leadership impact chain

The direct and indirect effects of leadership behaviour on various aspects of an organisation typically involve a series of interconnected links or stages that demonstrate how leadership actions influence outcomes. This concept, known as the leadership impact chain, includes:

  1. Having a deep understanding of the intended or desired business results
  2. Clearly differentiating these results from the performance needed
  3. Agreeing the ideal environment to drive performance
  4. Understanding the leadership contribution needed to create the ideal environment. 

So, when it comes to team identity, vision, and purpose, it’s critical to integrate these aspects with the overarching organizational goals. Put simply; it’s about knowing what the organisation wants to achieve and distinguishing it from how it plans to get there, creating an environment where team members are motivated to achieve success, and recognising how their leadership supports the entire process. 

Clarity on a page (COAP): A framework to create a team purpose

If you like the sound of all this but aren’t sure how to a) start the conversation with your team and b) keep it on track – keep reading. We created the Clarity on a Page (COAP) framework for precisely this reason.

By the end of the COAP process, you’ll have a document that shows your team’s purpose, vision, and strategy. It’s more meaningful because your team helped make it.

The framework is split into three sections, all underpinned by values and principles that influence and guide your team and its actions:

  1. Why? Start by generating discussions with your team by asking, “Why does this team exist?”  
  2. What? Then, explore what your team wants to achieve and why (its vision). Consider what specific problems or challenges the team aims to address.
  3. How? Next, focus on how to get there (the strategic priorities and big, hairy, audacious goals). 

These three questions will help your team imagine the future and work out how they could influence the organisation. By keeping their eyes on this vision, the team can break free from daily routines and get energised about what lies ahead.

Let’s put all that into practice and imagine a team in a marketing company.

The team starts by discussing “the why.” They realise it’s all about boosting brand recognition and engaging customers through changing social media channels.

Next, they talk about “the what” and consider what they want to achieve and why (vision). They dream of being the best in digital marketing, known for unique campaigns that excite people and help the business grow.

Lastly, the team explores “the how” or the strategic priorities and goals. They focus on how to make it happen. They decide to improve social media, send out better emails, and use data to make their marketing more personal. And their big audacious goal? Double the number of new customers in a year.

Also, keep in mind that the major steps, such as using agile sprints to test and speed up strategy delivery, usually involve collaborating with other teams—another reason to dedicate time to your COAP.

Investing time in your COAP benefits your team and leads to clearer discussions with others. This helps them understand why and how you need their support. Who knows, maybe they’ll be inspired to start the process themselves!

Building team purpose: Create space for teams to connect in a human way

With the increased use of digital tools and social media, you might expect team members to feel more connected and less lonely. But did you know that 72% of global workers feel lonely at least monthly? 

Also, with more employees working from home and spending less time with their colleagues, feelings of isolation can increase further. This highlights the importance of providing chances for teams to come together to talk, connect, and explore their shared purpose and identity. 

By meeting regularly, teams reinforce their common objectives and values, fostering a stronger sense of connection and motivation among members. Making space for a deeper conversation will give people the chance to build relationships, talk, and listen to each other while getting much-needed clarity on what they’re doing and why.

Here are three simple and effective ways for teams to connect in a human way.

1:  Watercooler hangouts

Offer chances for different colleagues to work together and have a say in making decisions to make the team more united and focused on shared objectives.

Designate specific times for team members to gather virtually casually, like chatting by the office water cooler. This allows for informal conversations and bonding moments, sharing their thoughts about the company’s vision and mission.

2:  Team retreats

Organise team retreats where team members come together for a day or two of strategic planning sessions to develop a shared mission (and mix socially, too!) 

These retreats offer a formal opportunity for team members to work together in a relaxed setting outside of the office, fostering deeper relationships and strengthening teamwork.

3.  Co-creation opportunities

Empower each team member by inviting them to join a working group to review the company vision. Let them consult with colleagues, managers, and customers to gather feedback and collate all responses, which aligns with our commitment to democratising leadership

When individuals and teams contribute to developing or updating a mission and vision, they feel included and are more likely to take ownership of achieving goals. This challenges traditional top-down leadership and creates real opportunities for growth and learning.

Reduce silos and get your teams working together

McKinsey article found that 70% of employees find purpose in their work. Yet, they’re less likely to say their managers provide opportunities for meaningful projects or share the “big picture.” This indicates organisations often fail to communicate vision and purpose to all employees.

Here are a couple of questions to think about:

  1. How can you be certain that what you’ve communicated has been fully understood?
  2. How do you ensure that team members feel personally connected to the organization’s goals and are motivated to contribute to their achievement?

These questions show how vital it is not just to tell your team about your vision but to make sure they really get it. Good communication isn’t just about sharing information; it’s about finding a balance between making sure everyone understands and is ready to work together towards the same goals.

When sharing your identity, vision, and purpose with your team, it’s important to recognise that ongoing communication and reinforcement are crucial in ensuring everyone understands it and are on the same page.

So, we’re saying it’s pretty pointless to develop your team’s vision and purpose only to save them on your company intranet and never communicate or act upon them.

Here are three practical tips to prevent team members from working in isolation and nurture team identity, vision, and purpose:

  1. Encourage open discussions, such as regular one-on-one check-ins with team members to provide individualised support and encouragement. Use these meetings as opportunities to discuss personal goals and concerns and how they align with the team’s vision and purpose. 
  2. Hold regular brainstorming sessions where everyone can contribute their ideas and perspectives. Why not start a team meeting with a group activity about understanding the company vision?
  3. Celebrate achievements and milestones together to reinforce the shared vision and purpose, nurturing a sense of unity and boosting motivation within the team.

Best practices to create a sense of team purpose

1. Lead by example

Team leaders should demonstrate their belief in the vision, purpose, and mission through their actions. For example, if a team’s mission is to prioritise customer satisfaction, leaders should demonstrate this value by actively listening to customer feedback and dealing with issues quickly.

2. Talk about it often

Keep reminding everyone about the vision, purpose, and mission. Ask for input and regularly ask for people’s thoughts to make sure what you’re aiming for still matters to them and your organisation. 

Encourage team members to share their own ideas and thoughts openly. Use team meetings, personal development review meetings, and informal opportunities to keep it on their radar.

3. Be flexible

Work priorities can almost change overnight! Be ready to change the vision, purpose, and mission as goals in the company change. For example, if the market changes or the company reorganises, the team may need to rethink its goals. Flexibility helps the team stay relevant and ready to adjust to whatever comes.

Build a strong foundation with team identity, vision, and purpose

We understand that team identity, vision, and purpose are crucial for success. 

Use our COAP framework to build a strong foundation. Help your teams tackle challenges, work together, and achieve their goals. Doing this will see your team flourish with clarity, unity, and purpose.

Clarity on a Page is the second step in our five-step Team Acceleration framework, our method for guiding teams toward high performance. If you’re curious about how your team could benefit from it, reach out, and we’d love to chat.

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