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6 Ways to Develop a Team’s ‘Common Purpose’

Actively engaging an entire team and asking for their input in developing a team's 'common purpose' is the cornerstone of developing a successful culture.

Hi and Welcome back!

As promised, here’s part two of the Team Building series.  

In my previous article we examined what Team Building is;

‘A team is a group of individuals all working together toward a common purpose.’ 

And the differences of Team Building versus Team Bonding, and how the two are completely different in achieving lasting success. As a reminder for this article I’ve included the difference below;

Team Bonding – Fun activities outside the work place that put team members with people they don’t normally liaise with to achieve a short term outcome (game of cricket, a ‘Survivor Challenge’, a series of obstacle courses etc) free of rank and hierarchy structure. The outcome of team bonding is a few laughs, work is forgotten about, fun is had, and is positive for participants. However it’s forgotten days after it’s finished, and people go back to old habits.

Team Building –  Activities that explore differences, in a a warm and welcoming environment, free of hierarchy structure, where all members contribute to developing a common purpose representing their input, providing ownership, purpose and empowerment to their role and responsibilities.  Once established, it provides a sense of belonging and standards to represent each and every day. 

If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to read the the first article of this series which can be found here

I touched on the importance of establishing a ‘common purpose’, which serves as the foundation for developing successful teams and culture, also some of the mistakes teams and organisations make in achieving this. Today I’m going to explore in more detail how to develop a common purpose, and its impact once established.

So let’s get into it.

To develop a common purpose, which gains buy-in, builds inclusiveness, creates a sense of ‘we’, and develops trust for team members, is a genuine commitment to it and to involve ‘everyone’ in the process. A ‘common purpose’ is not something created by a committee, board, CEO or upper management to be passed down to the team (I’ll address the pitfalls of that approach later). So how do we go about doing that? The example below provides an overview;

  • Consult and get everyone associated with the team together 
  • Workshop and allocate sufficient time to the establishment the ‘common purpose’ process.
  • Engage a neutral facilitator, preferably one not associated with the team/organistaion to conduct the session
  • Create an environment or be in a venue that is welcoming, inclusive and free of judgement and team/organisational agenda’s. Ideally, the environment feels relaxed and free for participants to contribute without judgement. Often an offsite venue creates this, and gets great results
  • Ask all participants to contribute their thoughts, and ideas to emphasise one goal.  Allow everyone to be heard, without judgement
  • Truly listen, and record all participant feedback and then sort commonalities, ask for agreement and finalise a ‘common purpose’

Looks easy, but there’s a bit of work there. However, once completed the results will be rewarding, while providing buy-in, belonging, and trust, in achieving goals that are beyond the capability of any individual.

So by developing a ‘common purpose’ what is achieved?

Examining the example above, the process has provided the following;

  • Inclusiveness –  Provided team members the opportunity to be heard free of judgement and without hierarchy or agenda.
  • Creates a sense of ‘we’ – By engaging in the process, all participants have shared their individual knowledge & experience leading to feeling empowered, valued and important
  • Buy – In – Recognising & acknowledging differences and skills sets, embracing new thoughts, and finalising a ‘common purpose’ creates a sense of ownership, and direction for everyone to aspire
  • Trust – By creating a safe and welcoming environment to be heard, acknowledged and celebrated without judgment, there is greater respect and trust among participants, and a true sense of belonging. 
  • Creates a Foundation – the establishment of a unified ‘common purpose’ provides a sense of ‘we’, buy-in, ownership, and trust. It represents something bigger than any individual which forms the foundation for lasting success and team cohesion. 

As I mentioned earlier, a common purpose is not something created by a committee, board, CEO, or upper management to be passed down to the team. By providing something of this nature, it creates an environment of ‘them vs. us’, ‘arrogance’, ‘stagnation’ and ‘closed minds’. It also enforces a culture of distant management, lack of trust between individuals, and invariably leads to organised opposition. 

So why do teams/organisations continue to operate this way?  Answer: It’s easy, as it’s the path of least resistance.  Hiding behind hierarchy structure for fear of being challenged will ultimately create poor culture yet alone create a positive team environment to achieve long term success.

A genuine commitment to develop a common purpose through engaged transparency with everyone involved will create a successful team, and provide a true sense of belonging for its members.

“The power of a common purpose will become the factor that differentiates winning teams and organisations from those left behind.”

So there it is, I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and thanks once gain for reading. As always, please feel free to comment below.

Now that ‘Common Purpose’ has been explored, next in the series will be creating ‘Standards’ and how these feed into creating a successful culture.

If you would like to engage with Stride, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Aaron Tenabel is the owner and founder of Stride Life CoachingAn ex professional swimmer and elite coach, Aaron now uses those experiences and skills to empower individuals and teams to reach their ultimate success.

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