What's the point of your team?
I was talking with the Corporate Fundraiser from a local hospice at a recent networking event and it really got me thinking about the importance of having a clear purpose for a team. The staff and volunteers at the hospice see and experience their purpose, first hand, every day.
The starting point for building and developing a high performing team is to have that clear purpose. Team members need to understand why their team exists. Building a detailed understanding will help to generate performance and success by enhancing and exploiting the strengths of the team. The purpose of the team forms its fundamental core, and is the foundation on which all other activities are built.
Identifying the deliverables of your team, setting its vision, and defining its values generates alignment and commitment. It gives motivation and direction to the team members and engages them. The team can then develop a strategy and plan of how to move towards, and achieve, the vision. If the team know what they’re aiming for, and why they’re doing it, their activities and actions will be much more focused, integrated and cost effective.
Your organisation’s strategy may change over time as the environment in which it operates changes. However, the purpose, vision and values are likely to remain consistent.
Thinking about four elements will provide the solid foundation for all the other activities of the team.
Challenges and deliverables
Defining the challenges that your team has to meet, and the deliverables the team is required to achieve gives team members a clear focus. It helps members understand why the team exists. As the team goes through low points, having an understanding of those challenges and deliverables can give the motivation to keep going and driving forwards. Gathering team members together and discussing the challenges and deliverables will start to build that shared understanding.
Values are the things that are most important from a personal and business perspective. They guide behaviour and choices, and they form the basis of decisions. If you align team members and their development with a strong set of values then they’re likely to feel much more fulfilled and energised.
In general, values will be stable and consistent, but they may evolve during significant periods of change. Values underpin how the team operates, how team members treat each other and how they treat their customers. For each of your values, write a short description of what that value means in your team’s specific situation.
Once your team understands why it exists, you can move on to developing and sharing its vision. Pick a time in the future and think where you want your team to be. Think of this as the team’s ultimate big picture and big goal. If there’s a time frame for the team to achieve its deliverables, then the end of that timeframe should be the point of the vision. If the team is an on-going, work-based team without a specific timeframe of deliverables, then think sufficiently far ahead to give time to work to achieve the vision.
Create the vision in a way that works for the team members. Draw a picture that represents the vision. Write down what you’ll see, hear, feel and smell when you achieve your vision. Use words, images and phrases from newspapers or magazines. Produce a mind map. In whatever way you capture it, make it real to the team members. Now summarise the vision to produce a simple statement which is engaging and motivational.
Alignment and commitment
Achieving alignment of team members and their commitment to the team, its purpose, its vision, its values and to fellow team members is a critical element to building a high performing team.
Team members must feel that they belong to something that really matters. Buying in to a common purpose can give the motivation to go on when things get tough. It helps team members through the low points because they understand ‘why’. It’s particularly effective if team members can relate the purpose to their own personal situation and circumstances, and generate real meaning to them.
The hospice I mentioned at the start of this blog provides nursing care and emotional support for anyone affected by a life-limiting illness. They support people with illnesses such as cancer, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis and they also support their carers and families. All services are provided free of charge and aren’t means tested. It costs over £3 million a year to run the hospice and 70% of that comes from fundraising and donations. So it’s a significantly sized business as well as providing an incredible service.
The hospice’s purpose is quoted on their website: “To make every day count through giving the highest quality support for patients and families living with life-limiting illness or affected by death and dying.”
That’s an amazingly powerful and motivating purpose for the staff and volunteer team members at the hospice to have.
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