The importance of understanding individual perspectives

One of the most important things that I’ve learnt that a team needs during my career is a shared vision, a shared understanding of where the team is going. In other words, a shared team purpose. 

‘Great teams’ have worked this out. ‘Great teams’ stay true it. ‘Great team’ live and breathe their purpose.

My team wasn’t clear about ours.

So as the leader of team, I needed to understand what each person on the team thinks the teams purpose is.

Carl Taylor of The Knowledge Biz was one of the first people to teach me this when I was just beginning my career. In his leadership and management training courses that attended when I was an aspiring leader at 20 years of age, he used the story of ‘Zen and the Art of Cathedral Building’. 

[He has since used it in his book, and more recently, within his app.]

Through this story, and his brilliant story telling ability, Carl shows the importance of a team manager and leader understanding the different perspectives that each member of the team has and how this can significantly impact on their work – especially when changes to the team are coming about.

This is a lesson that I had forgotten when I started working with my team to turn us into a great team.

After one of my regular catch ups with Carl over a drink, he said something that has stuck with me. I was talking to him about what I was trying to do, how I was trying to give my team a purpose as we worked towards becoming a great team, and how I was trying to make the team see the work as more than just work. And he replied with a simple question along the lines of – “why should they see the work as more than just work. Most people don’t, they just go to work to do the work in order to get paid”.

And that made me realise that he was right. Most of my team probably wouldn’t see the work as more than just work. 

So, I realised that I had to tap into them. To understood what made the work tic for them personally. To understand what they thought our team’s purpose was.

I had to see it from their individual perspectives.

So I set about personalising my approach. Making my conversations hit the buttons for them. Whether that’s about giving people who the organisation struggles to hear from a stronger and more effective voice in the organisation. Or whether it’s about feeling that their work is making a difference within the organisation. Or whether it was about better illustrating how our new way of working was based on and shaped by their previous working styles and experience. 

Carl had reminded me of a valuable lesson. A lesson that I would not forget again. A lesson that would shape how I approached our changes.

Now I had remembered this, it was time to start looking at a single, jointly written, team purpose statement. To help with that, I turned back to Teamworks.

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