What is Your Team’s Raison d’être?
- It seems obvious that a team should understand its purpose, yet often when asked people’s answers reflect job titles and goals versus a purpose that inspires them.
- A lack of clarity around purpose is a significant missed opportunity that exacts a high price.
- Purpose is powerful because it is a fundamental, and universal, human psychological need.
- Investing to ensure every team member understands the purpose of their role and is aligned with the team’s purpose delivers a significant return.
It seems obvious that a team should understand its purpose, its raison d’être. Yet often if you ask a team member or the team leader why their team exists, you’ll get a range of answers that reflect job titles and goals to be accomplished versus a purpose that inspires people.
From executive teams to first-level team leaders a lack of clarity around purpose is a significant missed opportunity that exacts a high price. That price is paid in lower productivity, less effective teamwork, and sub-optimal team and organizational performance.
The Power of Purpose
Purpose is powerful because it is a fundamental, and universal, human psychological need. Every team member desires clarity in their role and want to find meaning in performing that work. A few years ago, Claudine Gartenberg and her colleagues at the Wharton School, published the results of a large-scale study they conducted on purpose and performance within organizations. They uncovered that:
- Purpose is not characterized by a formal announcement, but instead by a set of collective beliefs that are held by, and guide, the actions of employees.
- Strong purpose is characterized by employees understanding the meaningfulness and impact of their work.
- Clarity of purpose correlates with superior financial and market performance.
Those findings reinforce why it’s vital that leaders become skilled at gauging how clearly people understand the purpose of their role, the contribution their work makes to the team, and how the teams’ purpose creates value for the broader organization and aligns with their own aspirations.
Clarifying Team Purpose in Three Questions
Whether your team has been together for years or just forming a new team, it is unwise to assume that everyone fully understands their role and how it creates value. Investing a little time to ensure every team member is aligned around the purpose of their role and the teams delivers a big return. You can do that with a team exercise answering three questions:
- How does your role create value for the team?
- How does your team create value for the broader organization?
- What is your team’s value proposition to current and prospective team members?
Then use the answers to craft a 2-3 sentence statement that describes a clear, compelling team purpose. With that understood, each team member will more easily connect the dots between personally finding meaning in their role, aligning it with the team’s purpose, and creating value for the broader organization.
Purpose is essential to helping people to do their best and be their best on a team. As Andrew Carnegie observed, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
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About the Author
Dr. Jeb Hurley is a behavioral scientist and leading expert in team dynamics. Jeb’s work connects neurobiology, psychology, and technology with team effectiveness and performance. His leadership experience includes multiple founder, CEO, and global F100 VP/GM roles and over thirty years of developing teams and coaching leaders. Jeb holds a doctorate in organizational leadership and is the author of two books on team dynamics and leadership.
Learn more about Jeb’s work making good teams great at www.brainware-partners.com.