Employee engagement has become more essential than ever before as organisations face a dynamic workforce, hybrid work and a new generation of employees in a rollercoaster economy. It has also become more challenging than ever before. Fortunately, there is a proven solution that has stood the test of time. A clear, shared Team Purpose is a powerful uniting force that not only brings out the best in teams at all levels, but also engages the individual employees within those teams to grow and perform at their best. In this article you will discover five practical steps to foster employee engagement by creating a Team Purpose statement.
What is Team Purpose?
A Team Purpose is a statement that answers the question: Why do we exist as a team? Simple as it seems, a clear answer to this question resolves a great deal of the uncertainty, inefficiencies and even conflict that can hold a team back from its potential performance. Since creating the Team Purpose statement enlists the voice of each team member, it also builds a sense of ownership and accountability that fosters employee engagement.
Some questions that can lead a team to clarify its purpose include:
- Why does this organisation (and even the world!) need this team?
- What is the benefit of this team’s mission
- Who is the team for?
- Why have we been brought together at this time?
Delving into these questions as a team is more than just a boost to operational clarity and productivity. It is also a potent bonding experience. Simply opening this discussion with basic questions like the ones above can elevate a team’s cohesion and performance.
Why does Team Purpose Matter?
A clear Team Purpose gives a team, and its leaders, a sense of common ground. It empowers every member of the team to take ownership of the collective goal, supporting a robust team and organisation culture. A quality Team Purpose statement answers questions team members (and their leaders) may have about:
- What do (and don’t) we do?
- Where do we focus our attention?
- What drives our decision-making?
- What should our structures and processes look like for optimal results?
- What goals and activities will make us a high-performing team?
- How do we create and nurture our culture and sense of community?
- How do we promote shared leadership?
- How do we each volunteer our unique genius?
When individuals unite around formulating their Team Purpose, every single member of the team benefits. Especially the leader, who can secure stronger buy-in (and plenty of valuable information) from each team member in the process. This empowers productivity, performance, creativity and innovation, accountability, conflict resolution (and prevention), problem-solving, decision-making and more.
5 Ways to Ignite Your Employee Engagement with Team Purpose: Action Steps
This all makes for enticing theory, but how can you make it work in practice? As promised, here are those five practical action steps you can take right away to ignite employee engagement in your team.
#1 As a team, including every member, ask: Why do we exist as a team?
This is a group activity where every team member’s voice counts. Although deciding on a Team Purpose could be simpler dictated from the top down, it is the buy-in of every member that will secure your team’s success. This is the heart of employee engagement, and there is no better place to start than with formulating the Team Purpose.
To make the most of this process, gather your team for an enjoyable in-person or online discussion. Invite everyone to participate, and most importantly be willing to “listen between the lines”. Wrapping up the Team Purpose process with a celebration gives the whole team a short-term reward to look forward to as all the members build their connection and culture.
Your team may want to decide on unique wording in their own words and tone, but it helps to have an example in place. A basic template for a Team Purpose statement appears below, and your team members can tailor and enhance it to suit the team culture:
This team exists to _____________________ in order to ___________________________.
A note to leaders: Although opening the door to all team members’ opinions might seem a bit uncomfortable or time-consuming, this is one place where a team needs to slow down to speed up. Research and experience show time and again that a top-down dictated Team Purpose is unlikely to meet with any success. Involving everyone is the best way to bring them on board. After all, those who plan the battle rarely battle the plan. Psychologically, team members are more likely to understand and support a Team Purpose in which they have had a voice. Including every team member will yield rich rewards.
#2 Refine your Team Purpose with these questions:
With a basic Team Purpose statement in place, your team is well on its way. Fleshing it out with some key details can further refine the Team Purpose. The process also engages your team members while building their commitment.
Questions like these create a more nuanced Team Purpose while bonding your team more deeply:
- Why does the organisation need this team?
- Why does the world need this team?
- What is the benefit of this team’s mission?
- Who is the team for?
- Why have we been brought together at this time?
You now have a Team Purpose that is refined and nuanced. With every question and discussion, you will also discover a growing sense of ownership among all your contributing team members. That is the heart of employee engagement.
#3 Ensure your Team Purpose is compelling and inspiring enough with these questions:
Before finalising your Team Purpose, the final test of its value is whether it can serve as a rallying point for the whole team over time. When the Team Purpose truly calls out to the heart of every team member, it will serve as a lasting key to employee engagement. It will inspire team members to develop their skills, talents and even their careers in service of the team and organisation. It will forge and foster the culture of the team and its members at work and beyond.
The following questions are the acid test of your Team Purpose:
- Will it focus our goals, activities, structures and processes (including meetings)?
- Will it empower decision-making and focus?
- Will it encourage genius and creativity?
- Will it encourage collaboration and synergy?
- Will it reduce confusion and conflict?
When your team can answer each one of these questions with a resounding Yes!, your Team Purpose is ready to roll out into action.
#4 Embed your Team Purpose consistently
Creating a Team Purpose statement is not a check-box exercise to draw up a document that will be neatly filed away. The very practice of formulating a Team Purpose together is a powerful team-building activity in itself that often yields immediate rewards. However, the Team Purpose statement will do its best work after its creation. The more your team uses it, the more power and traction it will gain. Invite your team members to embody and share the Team Purpose in fun and creative ways that excite them.
Some ways to embed your Team Purpose in practical, punchy and powerful ways include:
- Adding it to the top of your agenda
- Including it in any team actions or minutes
- Displaying it visibly where your team meets in person or online
- Reciting the Team Purpose rhythmically as a greeting, icebreaker or energiser
- Sharing the Team Purpose creatively through members’ own designs and slogans
- Creating a hashtag for the Team Purpose for use internally and on social media
Involving team members to embed your Team Purpose consistently keeps it top of mind for them. This allows them to benefit from the clarity and focus the Team Purpose brings. It unifies the team while engaging employees more actively in their work and professional community. Most importantly, it serves the team well after the initial Team Purpose creation session.
#5 Keep the Team Purpose Alive
A quality Team Purpose statement is never carved in stone. It may evolve over time, not unlike your team and its members. As valuable as a current Team Purpose statement is, once it is out of date it can actually undermine the team’s cohesion and performance. This is why it is so important for a Team Purpose to be open to evolving. To keep the Team Purpose alive:
- Revisit it regularly (at the very least once a year)
- Ask the whole team if it’s still serving you
- Ask the whole team if you are still serving it
- Adjust it together as needed using the previous steps
By keeping your Team Purpose relevant, your team can reconnect with the purpose and with each other when needed. This will ensure that the benefits continue to last.
In the face of the many challenges leaders, teams and human resource professionals face in the modern workplace, a clear Team Purpose can be a powerful tool. It ignites more meaningful engagement for employees and leaders, eliminating or reducing many of the issues that can hamper performance. With the five practical steps in this article, any team can begin to enjoy the far-reaching benefits of a potent Team Purpose.
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Ian Hatton is a conscious leadership expert, international keynote speaker, and the founder of Totally Morpheus, a provider of bespoke leadership and team development programs. As a former national product manager for Microsoft and later an international trainer to thousands of leaders from over 90 countries, he walks the talk of leading and living from essence. One of the practices that has made Ian a sought-after international expert is uniting leaders and their teams around a clear Team Purpose. Ian shares his transformational leadership insights in his keynotes, leadership and team development programs, public events and social media channels. His company, Totally Morpheus, is a commercial partner of Uwin Iwin Incentives.
Uwin Iwin Incentives is a Bryanston-based incentive consultancy firm and a full-service provider of performance incentive management solutions. With extensive experience in the field, Uwin Iwin Incentives helps organizations enhance performance, increase employee engagement, and drive business results through effective incentive programs. Uwin Iwin is a commercial partner of Totally Morpheus.