Clear sense of purpose key for high performing teams and people

27 September 2017 5 min. read

For companies striving to achieve high performing teams and an engaged workforce, it is paramount to ensure that groups of people and individuals have a clear sense of purpose. With a strong sense of purpose – the ‘why’ element of the equation – in place, organisations will  be able to reap a range of benefits in the longer run, including on aspects such as employee commitment (going the last mile), collaboration and customer service. Gianluca Bregoli, an independent consultant with a track record in marketing and communication, explains.

A clear understanding of the purpose of what we do at work, the why, is a key driver of high performing teams, engaged employees and positive customer experience. The why operates within the organisation and also extends its range of action outside the organisation when we deal with external audiences, customers first of all.

The importance of why at team level

Why should be the essence of every team. There are quite often “teams” (a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose for which they are mutually accountable), meetings, steering groups and conference calls of all kinds that are no more than a bunch of people put together. What is missing is the why factor: as a group of employees, why are we together? What is our purpose? It is when we find the answers to these questions that we start transitioning from a group of people as a series of “unconnected dots,” to a team of connected individuals who move together in the same direction towards an inspiring and shared vision.

Only when we embrace the purpose of our teams, meetings or conference calls, we can set clear objectives (what do we need to achieve?), define how we are measuring results and agree on the role that each of us will play accountably.

Sense of purpose

A team is like a jigsaw puzzle where the different pieces must fit together and each piece needs to fit itself into the big frame. The team purpose drives the commitment of its members to achieve the desired end results, making the best use of people’s varied skills, experiences, ideas and personalities. Experience teaches that meetings, workstreams and similar assemblies of people with no or unclear sense of purpose are a waste of time and efficiency loss.

The importance of why at individual level

Shifting from the team dimension to the individual level, the point is about how the why element should be embedded in our tasks and responsibilities. Our daily activities have a meaning when we are able to put them into perspective, that is to say when we fully grasp the purpose of our role within the organisation. Why have we been hired? What is expected from us? Why my role?

What gives purpose to our roles should be the vision, corporate strategy and cascaded objectives at department/function level: they shape the way our tasks and responsibilities contribute to the accomplishment of strategies and objectives.

Purpose as the direction of our journey as employees can also be seen from a resilience point of view. People who can articulate the reason behind what they do and have a set of goals attached to it develop a strong sense of achievement and are more resilient when facing challenges.

Leadership, communication and engagement

The link between a clear understanding of the role purpose, on the one hand, and the corporate strategy, vision along with the function objectives on the other hand, is summarised by three words: leadership, communication and engagement.

Simon Sinek says that there are “leaders [who] hold a position of power and influence” and there are “those who lead …Those who lead inspire us.” Whether we call them “those who lead” or “outstanding leaders” according to The Work Foundation’s leadership report, those are individuals who communicate the corporate strategy, explain what the organisation wants to achieve in the short and long term, and enthuse over a shared vision. They create engagement with their staff because, as humans, one of our primary needs is the sense of belonging.

Quote Gianluca Bregoli

It is the idea of inclusion, being involved, feeling empowered and adding value to something higher with our ideas, critical thinking and passion. High-performing teams of employees who go the extra mile understand the purpose of their roles. They feel inspired and know where they are going.

The importance of why and the customer experience

The customer experience is one of the best examples of the need to have employees fully connected to their why when dealing with external audiences. A poor customer experience is quite often the symptomatic expression of a broken link between members of staff and the effective communication of the purpose of their roles and alignment with the rest of the business. However, it is not only the why that is critical, but also the how and what: knowing how they are instrumental in delivering a positive customer experience and what they should be doing accordingly, employees at all levels are equipped with a toolkit that allow them to create an experience that is not purely transactional.  Many other factors play a role in shaping the customer experience; however, given the topic of the article, the focus has been limited to the intersection of the why, how and what.

In conclusion, it seems there are three main steps to follow: first, ensuring teams and roles at individual level have a purpose; second, communicating that purpose effectively so that it gets embraced; thirdly, empowering staff to do what they should be doing in the name of that reason called purpose or why.