Leadership Perspective: Building on Common Purpose

Have you experienced organizations that develop a Vision Statement, a Mission Statement, and a Purpose Statement and spend enormous amounts of money to send the message throughout the organization, but the teams and individuals within that organization never commit to them? 

On the flip side, have you experienced the joy and excitement of a working within a team that gets it, and moves together as if one?

The obvious next question is:  On which team would you rather be a member, and how do you get there?

Many years ago, I was working as a senior analyst within the Information Technology department.  We were moving business from one system to another, and the project required a strong understanding of the product, as well as knowledge of how both systems worked, so we could translate from one to the other.  We had a team of five people in this project, and we were given three months to accomplish the goal.  We were asked to go off site for three months, away from our families, and focus on the task at hand.

We quickly identified the skills and knowledge held by each person on the team, understood what we needed to do and in what order, and we walked together by separating to accomplish our individual tasks and coming back together multiple times a day to share information, talk through the challenges, make decisions and quickly move forward.

If an individual on the team did not get their individual tasks accomplished, we either challenged them to stretch more or we jumped in to help.  We played while we worked, and we worked while we played.  We accomplished our goal, and we did it well.

I have also worked with teams who did not coalesce.  Many members of the team were looking out for their own career, did not communicate, and often pointed fingers to shift scrutiny from them to another.

What was the difference between those teams?  Common Purpose.

What is common purpose?  I think it is fairly simple.  It is when the leader takes an active role in the group that they lead.  They create the bond that holds the team together.  It isn’t about teams that work in an us vs. them culture (often hierarchical in nature, with managers making decisions and handing them down for implementation).  It is about creating a we culture that is inspired, vibrant, courageous and hard to beat.

This culture says very clearly that:

  1. Every individual on the team, including the leader, stands side by side with the others
  2. There has been clear, open and candid conversation with everyone present so that every possible idea, concern, and disagreement is on the table
  3. The entire team knows the goal and what needs to be done, and
  4. They know the values and intentions of the organization.

The team is then able to put aside all doubt and any perceived limitations, unleash their imaginations and creativity, and agree as a cohesive group to be successful, with a willingness to take risks that often create huge shifts in thought and what they are able to accomplish.

When an organization remembers that every individual within an organization has the ability to be a leader, and utilizes all the strengths and talents available, it creates a “third mind” that begins to gel and give rise to solutions that do not exist in any one individual’s mind.  Everyone, including the leader of the team, is working toward a common purpose.  The team cannot help but succeed. 

What steps are you willing to take to create the common purpose that will propel your team forward, making them nearly unbeatable?

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