Creating a shared purpose

During my research into what makes great teams great, one of the reoccurring essential elements that I keep stumbling across was the need for a shared purpose. Something that all members of the team buy into. Something that they all own. Something that drives everything that the team – and the individuals within the team –  does. A kind of North Star.

Having understood the problems that not having a purpose can cause to an individual – see my earlier post ‘The Importance of Purpose‘ – I could quite easily see the problems that not having a shared purpose across a team can cause. 

Because we didn’t have a shared purpose, it meant that all of us in the team had our own understanding of the team’s purpose – often shaped by our own personal purpose (if we had one), our own personal experiences or our own preferences. This was causing us to pull in different directions, to have a different reason for doing what we we did, and to have a different North Star pointing us forward. 

So this became one of the first things that we needed to resolve as a team.

To help us to do that, I turned back to one of my constant sources of support and inspiration – SYPartners, and in particular, their Teamworks tool.

We had previously used the Teamworks tool to help us improve our duos – i.e. the individual relationship between us and each other person in the team – and to identify our Superpowers so that we could all understand what key skill and attribute we each bring to the team.

So as a team we set about understanding, defining and then sharing our team purpose.

Writing that last sentence makes it sound really simple. But, as with all the parts of our journey towards becoming a great team, it was actually quite hard to do.

It meant that we all had to open ourselves up to the rest of the people in the team by stating why we were there as a team, what we were aiming to do, why we were doing it, and who benefited from it. And to do that by writing it within a short number of characters in the Teamworks online tools. This meant that we couldn’t hide behind waffly wording or ask someone else to answer. 

We all had a voice at the same time to share what we thought. 

There was no hiding place. 

But, that meant that we all had to join in. We all had to listen to each other. We all had to learn from each other. We all had to let our guards down and share our honest thoughts with the team. But to do that you have to trust your teammates. You have to have courage. You have to have a culture of openness and honesty. 

In other words, we had to use all the hallmarks of a great team.

We took our time working on this – we didn’t want to rush it as we wanted it to be right.

And, by using the tools within Teamworks, we understood, we defined and we set out our shared team purpose in the form of a Team Purpose Statement. And, this is it:

  

And the funny thing is, that was actually the easy bit. The harder bits were left to come. We had to start living our shared purpose. We had to stick to our shared purpose. We had to change the way we did things, and sometimes what we did, to mean that we were living our team purpose.

And to help us to do that, needed to put some key actions. I’ll tell you what those were in a later post.

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