How To Give Your Team A Purpose

How To Give Your Team A Purpose

How To Give Your Team A Purpose
By Mark Wager

We all need a purpose, something which clearly defines our existence, the reason why our heart beats faster than normal, the reason why we feel hours pass like minutes, the reason why we say no when our inner voice tells us to quit. We have a fundamental human need to find our purpose and we will feel unfulfilled until we find it. Teams are no different. They will never reach their full potential until they discover their true purpose.

The question is how do you discover your team’s purpose. You may be thinking that it is an easy question to answer. “We make XYZ product” “We make money.” Those are both outcomes rather than a purpose. It’s not a goal either if it’s not “be the best team in the company.” Goals are fine. In fact, goals are an essential part of a team but are not the same as a purpose. The purpose of your team is the fundamental reason why you co-exist together. Why are you a team rather than a collection of individuals? This article will look at finding that purpose in order to improve innovation and the effectiveness within your team.

Step One: Explain the benefits
It often happens, especially in large organisations, that the overall vision gets lost in translation either due to the message being submerged in a sea of jargon or that the vision is too disjointed from the work that the team does. There is no obvious connection between the vision and daily tasks. A team's purpose is reinforced when the overall objective clearly creates a connection between the work they do, why they need each other and the overall objective. The key is to clearly state the benefits to your team so that it doesn’t sound like you are trying to implement the latest leadership fad. The benefits are clear. Establishing a team purpose will provide a focus to improve communication, understanding and collegial support all of which are essential elements of every successful team.

Step Two: The why
The question the team members need to ask themselves is why do they exist together as a team rather than just work separately as individuals within the same organisation. What is it that they can achieve together that they can not do as individuals. Your team is likely to have introverted and extroverted thinkers so it's important that the team has time to consider why the team exists before gathering together. This will help the introverted members and when everyone is gathered together the extroverted members need an opportunity to openly talk through their thoughts..

Step Three: The how
Once you have established why the team exists, you then need to consider how as a team you are going to make this happen. At this stage of the conversation you need to stay away from specific behaviours as that comes next. Now you just look at how you behave as a team with a specific focus on what values the team needs to have in their interactions with each other.

Step Four: The what
This is the stage where ambition meets reality , the “what” is where you look at the specific behaviours that make the “how” happen. Up until now, the mood is usually upbeat but now the challenges become real and you have to explore why these behaviours have not happened until now. This is the opportunity to work with a clean slate and put behind you the "we've always done it this way" mentality. Keep the mood positive and ensure people have the belief and empowerment in order to achieve the ideal team state

Step Five: The When
The final stage is when. During this stage you need to define where the team is at now. The current reality must be determined before specific steps are taken to get to the ideal future state that was clearly defined during the "what" stage. The plan to make this happen needs to have timeframes for completion, clearly marked milestones and people identified to be responsible for each task.
This is not an easy task but it's a task if done correctly will provide the team with a clear purpose and a vision to realise that purpose. Once this is in place the team will have something that is greater than themselves and this will provide the humility, the motivation and aspirations that every team needs in order to become successful.

About the Author:
Mark Wager is a Leadership Coach who specialises in developing strategies and practical tools in order to turn Managers into inspirational leaders. Mark provides a free 20 minute strategy session for anyone in New Zealand, Australia or the pacific Islands. The purpose of this session is to clarify your goals and identify what you need to do in order to achieve those goals. Mark can be contacted via the enquiry form below.

Image courtesy of sattva at

Posted: Wednesday 14 October 2015

Make an Enquiry