Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kick Off Your Year Right by Defining Your Team's Purpose

It’s the beginning of the year and an excellent time to clarify your team’s purpose. A team “purpose” defines the reason for the team’s existence – not necessarily what you do, but why you do it.

You may assume everyone knows the purpose of your team, and hopefully they do. However, taking a meeting to walk your team through an exercise to re-define your team’s purpose builds team cohesion and ensures everyone is committed to the same outcomes. It offers a chance for team members to reconnect with their reason for being there, and to recommit (or not) to their team and it’s raison d’etre. It ensures you do have a team, and not a group of individuals each working on their own for their own purpose. It lays a solid foundation for your team members so they know what's important for them to focus on. And, you may learn something about how your team members view their team and it’s purpose.

If you are developing a new team, it’s especially important to start off ensuring everyone is on the same page. Don’t assume they are – that is a common mistake of leaders. Make sure they are by inviting them to determine the team’s purpose.

For optimum commitment and buy-in, all team members should be involved in creating the team’s purpose. Here are some easy steps to do that:

Before the meeting, ask each team member to write down:
1. What they see as the current purpose of the team. You can even ask them to just finish the sentence by inserting the why: “The purpose of the Magic® Brand team is to control how, where and when the brand is portrayed so that….”
2. How the team purpose ties directly to the company’s mission, vision and /or core values.
Let them know that at the meeting, they will have an opportunity to explain to their team members what they’ve written, and to answer any questions for clarity and understanding.

At the meeting, once everyone has had a chance to explain their view of the team’s purpose, lead a discussion about the commonalities and the disparities of the different purposes. Prioritize common purposes.

As the team leader, you can then do one of the following:
1) Take all you’ve learned from this meeting, go off on your own and write the team’s purpose statement. Bring it back to the team at the next meeting and present it. Answer any questions to ensure clarity and understanding. Or,
2) If at the first meeting it seems that everyone is pretty much on the same page, define the team’s purpose right then and there. As word-smithing in a group can be torture, you may want to assign one or two people to go off and do final tweaks to the purpose statement to be presented at the next meeting.

The team purpose should be able to be described in one clear sentence. Something like: “The purpose of the Shipping Department is to ship customer orders accurately and on time in such a way that we save money for the company and make the customer happy.”

You may want to prioritize your purposes:
“The purpose of the Document Control department is to manage information so that 1) we maintain a controlled, reliable audit trail and 2) our internal and external customers can confidently and easily obtain the most recent, accurate documentation.”

Once you have a purpose statement for your team, refer back to it as often as you can. It is justification for creating new processes, ideas and methods to support the purpose. For example in the Shipping Department case, you can refer to the team purpose to reinforce new idea generation that would save money or make the customer happy. For Document Control, ask your team “How can we better reinforce our audit trail?" Or, “What ideas do you have to make it easier for our customers to access the documentation that they need?”

Having and reinforcing a team purpose keeps your team members on track with the priorities of your group. It reminds them of why they do what they do, which is a basic requirement of motivation. If people don’t understand the why, the purpose, their motivation lags and expectations are not reached.

A commitment to a clear and common purpose is essential to creating a strong and cohesive work team.

Having a commitment to a clear and common team purpose could avoid this.

No comments:

Post a Comment