Simple Steps for Developing a Shared Purpose for Your Team (Aspect 1 of 10)

Part of Build Strong (and Well-Rounded) Teams

Doing risk-based work requires a special team. We cover recruiting tactics, training, compensation, recognition and continual improvement methods that drive results for the kind of work you do.

Part of Build Strong (and Well-Rounded) Teams

Doing risk-based work requires a special team. We cover recruiting tactics, training, compensation, recognition and continual improvement methods that drive results for the kind of work you do.

Simple Steps for Developing a Shared Purpose for Your Team (Aspect 1 of 10)
Article filed in Teams

To build a strong team, nurturing engagement among the members is critical - and engagement requires that every member understands the purpose.

Studies show that highly engaged employees are 10 percent more likely to exceed their expected performance. That number jumps to an incredible 50 percent when those same engaged employees also are enabled by those around them to do their jobs well. Despite the clear benefit of building teams that feel engaged, dedicated, and empowered by their organization, only 68 percent of employees say that they experience that crucial engagement.

What does it mean to have employees who feel engaged?

Well, this same research says that engagement is the result of having an understanding of the overall PURPOSE of the organization and team.

So get your Purpose sorted out.


When your risk-based team feels connected, they understand how they contribute to the ‘big picture’, regardless of how large or small their actual role may be. When people feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves, they feel more interested and inspired by the topic and the team mission.

Engaging people requires understanding what helps the team members thrive; finding that hidden piece that will drive their work ethic and their performance. Uncovering this critical team purpose, therefore, requires careful consideration by the group and organizational leaders.

The purpose requires deeper thought than, “we are the best” and it requires a clearer mission than, “we need to solve this problem.”

Here is what you and your risk-based team need to know about successfully defining a purpose for your next risk-based project and the benefits this simple step can offer.

Defining a purpose for your team

To establish and define your team’s purpose, you need to identify four key components. These components come together to engage and inspire your team so that they can challenge themselves and achieve their goals by finding their purpose.

1. Establish your mission

Your mission describes what the team strives to do. This needs to be something real and definitive. “We want to be the best,” says very little and offers little substance to inspire excitement or encourage other team members. The mission should challenge people and generate enthusiasm.

2. Clarifying your vision

The vision of the team describes who the group strives to be. It impacts how people will work together, their work ethic, and how the members will behave. Let people see how their role impacts outcomes and how the culture of the group influences broader goals.

3. Defining your values

The values of your team articulate the beliefs and behaviors expected of the team members.

Do not confuse team values with a poster on the wall.

The true values of the team can be found in the actions of the members and the behaviors and expectations they have internalized. To build a team that reflects the desired values, you need to define the expectations in the beginning and then hold people accountable for how they embody values.

4. Outlining your objectives

To keep the team on track, you also want to define measurable objectives. Determine the KPIs related to these objectives that will provide valuable insight when gauging the performance of the team as a whole, as well as the individuals.

These objective measurements make it easier for the team members to have frank conversations about performance and areas for improvement.

By using measurable objectives, by definition, less subjective impressions can be used, resulting in fewer arguments and making it easier to find a path to success. They will keep team members on target and moving forward towards the predefined purpose of the group.


What happens when teams do not have purpose?

While you may now understand the importance that a clearly defined purpose has on a team, it is also valuable to look at how easily teams can be disrupted when they lack this essential ingredient.

When team members do not fully internalize the purpose of the group, they begin to feel lost. They do not understand the value of the tasks they complete. This makes it hard for them to remain engaged and focused on their responsibilities. Employees in these environments will often lose their motivation to remain on task and to meet their deadlines.

When a team lacks purpose and does not have a clear picture of their mission, values, and objectives, they are forced to rely on a rule book or a predetermined script that determines who does what. If someone takes away that script, such as when unforeseen problems arise, suddenly the team begins to flounder. Without purpose, group members cannot ask themselves, “do my actions here align with our central purpose?”, which makes it difficult for them to find their way.

Teams that do not have a clear sense of purpose are not adaptable. They become hindered and unable to reach their goals by unexpected situations.

How to give your employees a strong sense of purpose

Step 1. Use a kickoff meeting to outline a definite team mission.

When the team first forms, bring together the members for a meeting dedicated to determining the mission of the group. Keep in mind that this should differ from just the job assigned to the team.

Consider the example set forth by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback at the Harvard Business Review. A team has been put together following a disastrous response to one of their brand’s products. The task before them is to ‘fix’ the negative public response and get the brand back on the right track. “Fix the problem” however, does not work as a team mission. It does not inspire or give the group a firm idea of what they need to accomplish. If their ‘rule book’ was taken away, as discussed previously, the team will have little idea about where to go next.

When the team, however, decides to go amend their purpose and realizes that their true mission is to, “restore the company’s reputation for quality”, however, they become reinvigorated and inspired.

Step 2. Let the employees know how they have positively impacted stakeholders.

Employees are often kept in the dark regarding how their work has directly impacted stakeholders. They might complete their particular aspect of a project and submit it by their deadline, but how that effort ended up impacting clients and the success of the team and the broader organization does not get filtered back to them.

Make an effort to share with employees directly how their efforts impacted the rest of the team, the organization, and stakeholders.

Provide insight into how their work effort powered bigger projects that helped drive other successes.

Help them see the value of their role within the bigger picture of the organization.

Step 3. Train managers to understand motivations.

Quality managers will understand how to align individual motivations and drivers with the group goals and mission.

To begin this process, leaders will need to better understand the personalities of the members of the team. Personality inventories, like the ones referenced in the Aspect: Balance (read more about this in our piece on team personalities), can be very helpful in this process. You will gain a better understanding of what motivates particular people and what helps them remain on task.

Strong managers will then be able to use this information to link the individual motivating factors of the members of the team with the broader goals of the group. Connect these motivating factors with the mission and team purpose.

Step 4. Take advantage of employee surveys.

Employee surveys can provide valuable insight regarding employee’s perceptions of the team and its level of productivity.

Many offices will use surveys only once or twice a year to learn more about people’s points of view, but they can actually be more effective when used regularly. This allows you to get a better idea of how the day-to-day operations in the office and the impressions of your employees.

Use these surveys as an opportunity to learn more about how employees feel about their level of engagement with the team as well as their understanding of the mission of the group.

Gauge their ability to describe the purpose of the team, including the mission, vision, values, and objectives. If your members can not regularly identify these key components, or their answers otherwise indicate a strong likelihood that the team has not been brought together by a common purpose, the time has come to reconvene and discuss the group’s goals.