Why does your leadership, operational or project team exist?

The first thing you need to establish if you wish to transform any team into a high-performing team is to get clarity and agreement on why your team exists i.e. the purpose of your team.  In the Team DyNAmics© Model that I created, it is the most important of the sixteen elements that need to be managed effectively if you want to create a high-performing, engaged, dynamic and successful team.

We want meaning in our lives

In a survey mentioned by Harvard Business Review, 98% of workers said that having meaning to their lives was important.  As we spend a large part of our lives in work and in teams, it is no wonder therefore, why an agreed and compelling team purpose is the foundation upon which a high-performing team is created.  As Stephen Covey mentions in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.”

An ill-defined purpose leads to low morale

One of my first leadership roles was to lead an already established finance team.  I was aware that they had a low esteem of what they did and that perception was mirrored in the business units they had a relationship with.

At the first meeting I had with my new team, I asked them, “Why do you exist as a team?”  I asked each one of them to write down on a piece of paper what they thought.  They then shared what they had written with the rest of the team.  Their responses were varied but at the core of what they thought was that they collected financial data from various reporting units and put it in an agreed format.  They were widely known as the ‘bean counters’.  No wonder they felt bad about themselves and other parts of the business did not value what they did.  Their team purpose was mundane and added little value.

The 3 elements

For the next couple of hours, I challenged them and their perception as to why the team existed.  I did this by getting them to focus on agreeing three fundamental elements that together, would make a clear a compelling purpose for the team.

The three elements that I asked them to develop were as follows:

  1. What does your team exist to do?

What is it that you really do and deliver?

  1. What are the benefits?

How do others really benefit from what you do?

  1. What does this enable?

What value-add does this really achieve?

Eventually, after many ideas and much discussion, the team came up with a team purpose statement that made them feel positive about the work they did and the value that it added to other parts of the business.

The acid test

It is important that your team purpose can be justified and is specific.  It is no good using phrases such as “the best”, “the most creative”, “a world leader”, unless these words can be backed up with evidence that your team is that.

The acid test is to try out your team purpose on someone who doesn’t know your team.  They should understand exactly why your team exists in a few short sentences.

During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom.  He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

The janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President.”

What a great story! Obviously, the janitor understood the importance of his contribution and how his role linked into the overall purpose of the NASA Space Team at the time. He truly felt he was a valuable part of something bigger than himself, and his attitude created a feeling of self-confidence in his mission.  He wasn’t merely a janitor, he was a member of the 1962 NASA Space Team!

An example Purpose statement

It would be totally inappropriate for me to share the team purpose of the finance team that I led, so I have chosen to share that of my company Ngagementworks which is as follows:

What does your team do?

Ngagementworks exists to positively and tangibly increase individual and team performance through learning and development programmes and keynote conference speaking.

What are the benefits?

This enables individuals and teams to learn practical tools and techniques that can be applied to increase engagement and collaboration.

What does this enable?

In doing so, it motivates them to transform and achieve even greater success which benefits themselves, their teams and their organisations.

What is your leadership, operational or project team purpose?

So, what about your team?  Do you have an exciting, value-adding team purpose that everyone is bought into and understands?  It doesn’t matter whether you are a leadership team, an operational team or a project team, this is the most important thing that you need to establish and agree.  If you haven’t;

  1. Make the time to define your team purpose
  2. Check it out with your team and others to ensure it is clear
  3. Keep it simple

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories on your team purpose.

Yours behaviourally, Nick

Who am I and Ngagementworks?

I’m a former Change Director of Barclays PLC, a performance psychologist and founder and CEO of Ngagementworks, a learning and development company that helps many well-known brands succeed through developing their greatest asset, their PEOPLE. I have over 20 years’ experience of leading and working with teams.

I am passionate about the potential that lies with individuals and teams to achieve success and I have devoted my working life to helping unlock that potential via learning and development workshops that I facilitate.

I am also an award-winning conference speaker on behaviours, leadership, team effectiveness and engagement and creator of the Team DyNAmics© model of team engagement. (the link will take you to a short video explaining it).

You can contact me direct to discuss how I may be able to support your individual/team development objectives or about a conference that I may be able to help you by speaking at, via nick@ngagementworks.com

I am also on Twitter @Nick_Fewings and LinkedIn

Ngagementworks also has a presence on Facebook and on Instagram

#teambuilding #engagement #leadership #team #management #change

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