Recently we were coaching a leadership team and one of the team members said, “I don’t think we all have the same understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.” That indicated a lack of common purpose and explained why they were struggling. Clear and aligned purpose is essential to successful teams.
The purpose must answer why the team exists and describe the ‘what’ (the problem the team is trying to solve or the mission it must accomplish). It also defines how resolving the problem or accomplishing the mission fits in with the broader objectives of the organization. When the team has a clear sense of their shared work but their connection to the organization’s overall purpose is vague, the result is lack of alignment, unclear external communication and/or difficulty setting priorities. When people understand how what they do fits into the bigger picture it gives them a sense of meaning. A key component of successful teams is having a shared purpose that everyone is committed to accomplish.
Why does your team exist? The majority of leadership teams are missing a CRISP definition of their purpose:
- Committed -everyone is fully bought in and supportive of accomplishing the same goal. Does everyone know WHY the team exists, and are they dedicated to that why?
- Role – what is each team member’s role in accomplishing the goal? What is each team member responsible for to support the common goal?
- Interdependent – the goal cannot be achieved individually (just like Tampa Bay can’t win if Tom Brady makes record numbers individually, it’s the whole team together that wins or loses!) How has the team made it safe to work together to mutually accomplish the goal versus operate as lone wolves? A team purpose creates clarity on HOW you work together.
- Success – how does the team win? WHAT is your measurement of success? How do you keep score?
- Principles – what are the guiding principles which clarify the decision processes, conflict resolution approach, team behavioral norms and communication expectations so that each team member is operationally aligned?
There is not a right or wrong definition, but a lack of purpose produces ineffective teams and miserable team meetings. Evaluate your team purpose to ensure that it is CRISP and focuses your team on success.