Everybody needs to know their “why” at work. A team purpose can help define this and set the direction for your team. Team purpose can also give you guidelines and direction that will help you make decisions.
Let’s see how.
What Does a Team Purpose Look Like?
Like many parts of leadership, this is not rocket science. It is not meant to be a detailed, exhaustive list of roles and responsibilities. The team purpose simply acts as a guiding vision for your team.
What to Include in Your Team Purpose
Your team purpose should have three different parts.
First, you want to include a functional statement about what your team does. As an example, for a team that provides administrative support for an office, it might be:
Our team provides administrative support for managers in Head Office, including scheduling, managing office resources and coordinating meeting actions and documentation.
Next, you need a why statement. Following on from the previous example:
Our team provides support so that managers can spend more time working with their teams and leading, rather than performing administrative work.
Lastly, you need a how statement. This covers the manner in which your team provides their service. This might look like:
Our team works calmly, efficiently and responds quickly to requests for support. We display a positive attitude, flexibility and provide extra help where required, as long as this does not stop us from completing our core duties.
As you can see, this is not meant to be a detailed exercise in documenting roles and responsibilities.
Now that we’ve stepped through the three main parts, let’s look at how this team purpose can actually help the team.
1. A Purpose Helps You Decide Whether You Should Commit
With the frantic pace of many workplaces, it’s common for unexpected work to arise, or work that doesn’t fit exactly into anyone’s domain.
Many environments reward and encourage helpful behaviour. Being helpful is great, but only if it doesn’t stop your team from performing their own work.
Team members who spend a lot of time helping others are generally well regarded, but may not actually be productive in their own roles. Overly helpful team members may actually be damaging team performance by being consumed with tasks that they aren’t responsible for.
Read more about this topic here: Team members too helpful? Watch out for these 5 problems.
This is where a sense of team purpose is useful. When you have a defined purpose for your team, you can more easily decide whether you are in (committed) or out (choosing not to take on the work).
2. Team Purpose Helps You to Model the Right Behaviours
Part of the purpose is the manner in which you want your team to work. If you choose this wisely, it becomes the model of behaviour that you want your team to follow.
When you make decisions or plan improvements to your team, use the “how” of your team purpose to help you. If you are making a decision that runs counter to your team purpose, then you may not be making the right call.
In our example above, part of the purpose was to “respond quickly to requests for support”. If your team members are slow to respond or start ignoring requests, then this can be the basis for a performance conversation.
3. A Purpose Helps Connect to a Higher Meaning
An important part of the team purpose is the “why” for your team. When you and your team can agree on the reason your team’s work is important, you have a valuable motivational tool.
“Task significance” is the understanding of how each team member’s tasks contribute to the bigger picture of the organisation. However, sometimes organisations are large and it can be hard for team members to feel connected to the purpose of the organisation as a whole.
However, it should be easier for your team members to see how they contribute to their team, which is at a smaller scale. If your team purpose can convey why the team is important, your team members will easily be able to link their role with the function of the team.
After that, it’s only a short step for team members to understand how their team helps the organisation. Once people can see that their work is important for their team and the organisation as a whole, work becomes a lot more meaningful for everybody.
Developing a simple team purpose can really help motivate team members and clarify the role that your team plays in your organisation. This can help you to push back on work that you shouldn’t be doing and helps others understand what the core role of your team is.
Does your team have a clear purpose, and do you find a team purpose or vision useful? Leave a comment below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.
I just wanted to let you know the word ‘organization’ is spelled incorrectly. Other than that, great article, thank you!
Thanks Nicole… I spell it with an “s” because I live in Australia and that’s how a lot of us (and many English people) actually spell it.
Great information. I’d love to see an example for a senior leadership team or Executive; alongside the admin support example you provided.
Thanks Raelene – if I get a chance I will see if I can get another example together.
I have always worked on the What, Why and How of Teams I work with before engaging on organisational Purpose and Strategy, in the previous era referred to as vision and mission. I find individual gain a sense of belonging and commitment when they understand the part they play in the Team and then in the Organisation.