Creating a Shared Team Purpose

By Swift HR Solutions Team | Leadership | No Comments


"When you're surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible." - Howard Schultz

Everyone looks up to strong teams with shared purposes, but that's not the way that most companies operate. Consider what happened with Borders Bookstores.

The 40-year-old book-selling giant began closing its remaining stores for good about eight years ago after a series of miscalculations and missteps. It focused on toys, food, and music, instead of books, and even hired people who had no interest in reading.

According to Mike Edwards, the former president of the company, "We were all working hard towards a different outcome..." That's a telling statement.

In contrast, some astounding feats can be accomplished by teams with a common purpose. In 2018, a group of 12 boys and their soccer coach became trapped in a cave deep in a Thai forest. The successful rescue of that group over the next two and a half weeks was an astonishing display of multiple teams working together with a shared purpose.

What is a Shared Purpose?

“Purpose (noun): The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. “ - English Oxford Dictionary

Your team might know "what" it is supposed to be accomplishing and even the process (the "how") to get there, but both are things that should come after it defines its purpose. Your purpose is your motivation for doing something. Why is this important? What do you believe?

Here are a few excellent examples of company-wide statements that illustrate this concept:

  • Slack - Making work simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.
  • Disney - To Make People Happy.
  • JetBlue - To inspire humanity - both in the air and on the ground.

Of course, companies should have these inspiring shared purposes; but teams should, too. Your team should formulate the "why" of its existence. Otherwise, you just have a group of people working on tasks and not understanding "why" they're doing it.

A Common Vision is Attractive

When individuals and silos have their own agendas, they're either in conflict or not working towards a common purpose. Setting strategy and goals at the highest level isn't enough to drive meaningful outcomes. What organizations and teams need is a shared purpose.

According to Gallop, 85% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work. This reality is costing companies roughly $7 trillion in lost productivity. These figures are staggering, but companies and teams can build alignment and boost engagement by creating a shared purpose.

EY Research conducted a global survey of 474 executives across multiple geographies and sectors. Here are some of its findings:

  • 89% of executives surveyed say that a strong sense of shared purpose drives employee satisfaction;
  • 84% believe that it can impact a company's ability to transform;
  • 80% say it helps increase customer loyalty; and
  • 58% of companies that make a shared purpose a priority have experienced growth of 10% or more over the past three years.

These are encouraging results, yet nearly half (48%) of the companies surveyed had not yet begun to develop or even think about a shared purpose.

Steps to Create a Shared Team Purpose

When people get together to form an organization or team, a variety of skills and personalities converge. Every team should have a shared purpose before it assigns ownership and sets individual goals. Here is a process you can follow to establish a common purpose for your team.

Decide Who Should Be Involved

When you formulate a purpose, be as inclusive as possible. Every member of your team should have a seat at the table, and you may wish to expand your reach to others that are touched by your team's actions - customers, vendors, investors, and other key stakeholders.

Identify Your Core Values

Values guide the actions of your team and its members when leaders aren't present. They act as a guidepost within your company for decision-making and even govern behavioral standards.

Without core values (integrity, honesty, passion, fun, leadership, diversity, trust), it's tough to build great teams or foster a cohesive culture. List your company's values, and determine whether these can be used to define your shared purpose.

Dream Big, But Keep it Simple

For your purpose to truly inspire the team, it needs to be big. It should be something that seems challenging, so much so that members are willing to make some sacrifices to see it become a reality. Choose a purpose that your team will be proud to pursue. But, avoid any statements leaden with industry-speak or other jargon.

Communicate a Strong Purpose

When your team has internalized "why" they are doing something, they'll be more motivated to focus on the "what" and "how" parts of the equation. Henry David Thoreau wrote, "It's not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?"

A "set it and forget it" shared purpose won't do your team much good. If you try communicating this from a single point of view, you may find limited success. A McKinsey study found that people vary according to what they find meaningful. It's often helpful to communicate a shared purpose in terms of the positive effects it will have on the team, the individuals, your customers, and society as a whole.

Some Final Thoughts

Having a shared team purpose will not only improve your company's bottom-line results but also result in more internal fulfillment. Employees perform at their best when they are engaged in their work and given the right resources and tools to get the job done. Going through this exercise can build stronger teams and leaders.

French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote something pivotal,

“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Help your team create a bold shared purpose, and they'll take care of the rest.

Give us a call today to learn more about how Swift HR Solutions can help your company and internal teams discover and achieve its purpose.

Creating a Shared Team Purpose is a SwiftLeadership® Café module.

creating a shared team purpose

Subscribing to SwiftLeadership® Café gives you access to:

  • Customized web portal login access.
  • A certified SwiftLeadership Facilitator throughout the lifetime of your access.
  • Each module comes with PPT, complete facilitator guide with facilitation instructions, assessment tools, small group exercises and templates.
  • Designed to be delivered by leaders to frontline supervisors during their regularly scheduled staff meetings (each module is 30-60 minutes in length). Based on your organizational structure, it may also be self-facilitated by internal HR teams to their leadership teams.

SwiftLeadership Café has an entire menu of choices to enable your organization to create your own internal leadership development program. Each module is 30-60 minutes in length, allowing practical leadership tools to be developed within the organization without taking time away from your day-to-day business.

Learn more about SwiftLeadership® Café here >

Subscribe Here!