A sense of purpose gives meaning to what we do. For team’s it goes even further – it’s quite literally the reason why they exist.
Ultimately, teams need to understand the true reason they’re doing what they’re doing, while having clear goals to guide their progress. Without this, it’s difficult to steer a group of people in the same direction.
This is why it’s so important that teams understand their purpose, and why managers need to work together with their teams to define a team purpose statement.
But what is a team purpose statement? How do you create one? And what are the benefits of having one?
In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.
What is meant by team purpose?
High-performing teams have a shared, clear purpose. They not only understand why their team exists, but they use it to guide their decision making.
The benefits of having a clear team purpose
When teams know what they’re working towards, prioritization becomes easier. In fact, when a team comes to a crossroads, the question becomes simple – what route is most closely aligned to our purpose?
By using the team’s purpose as a compass to guide decision making, all team members remain aligned, and can avoid wasting valuable time on less important tasks.
By agreeing on a common purpose, individuals become more comfortable that their teammates are working with them, not in competition. This not only helps them bring out the best in one another and develop better working relationships, but can also help to improve levels of psychological safety within the team.
Team purpose can help fuel motivation by focusing individuals beyond their own short-term commercial success.
In fact, a really effective way teams can demonstrate the impact of the their mission is by showing how it affects the lives of the customers (or stakeholders) they’re serving.
The ability to build a network across the wider business
When teams can easily articulate their purpose, they not only provide other teams across the business with visibility into what they’re working on, but they also make it easier for others to support them.
After all, when individuals across an organization can see the bigger picture of how each team’s purpose connects, it creates opportunities for others to contribute valuable ideas or expertise.
What is a team purpose statement?
A team purpose statement, or team mission statement, is a short statement that describes a team’s reason for existing within an organization. It explains how the team is unique, and why what they do is important to the business.
A team purpose statement should therefore:
- Describe what the team does
- Outline who they are doing it for
- Be clear on why they are doing what they’re doing
This purpose should be something that, as individuals, we not only resonate with, but also deem to be worthwhile.
How to create a team purpose statement
Now that we’ve covered what the purpose of a team is and the benefits of being able to define and articulate it, the question is, how do you create a team purpose statement?
While we’ve provided more detailed guidance on crafting a team purpose statement as a group here, we’ll summarise the steps below:
1. Ask each team member to answer the following questions:
- What do we do?
- Who do we do our work for?
- Why do we do what we do?
For each question, they should write their response either on a separate post-it note or on a separate digital card (if using an interactive tool). Managers should encourage team members to share as many answers as they like—they don’t just need to limit it to one per question.
2. Ask everyone to vote for their favourites
Again, this doesn’t need to be limited to just one vote per question.
3. Sort each question’s ideas by the most voted
It can be beneficial at this point for managers to spend time discussion any emerging themes.
4. Write a single statement
To do this, we’d recommend using the following format: “We do <something> for <somebody> so that <something>”. Teams should try and use the best ideas from the cards to create this statement.
5. Embed this purpose into your team
Team purpose statements shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise where they’re created and then quickly forgotten about.
Instead, managers should be embedding this purpose into the team's work. One way they can achieve this is by referencing the purpose in key discussions or meetings, or even by creating a ritual that keeps the team on track with the purpose they've collectively developed.
But what is a ritual?
"A ritual can be defined as an action or word that a person or group does repeatedly, following a similar pattern or script in which they've imbued symbolism and meaning".
You can see our full exercise for creating rituals to embed purpose here.
Team purpose statement examples
So, what should a team purpose statement look like?
Below, we’ve provided some examples (both formal and informal) to provide you with some inspiration:
As a HR team, we strive to create an environment that stimulates creativity and empowerment, so that we keep our employees motivated, productive, and happy.
This example is of a more formal team mission statement, which is fine - if the tone suits the team. Ultimately, they should be written in a way that each team member would feel comfortable saying out loud.
The alternative, therefore, is to opt for a more informal team mission statement, such as:
Empower our people’s creativity.
Make <<Company Name>> a place where our employees actually look forward to Monday.
Final thoughts on team purpose
Team purpose not only helps lay the foundations for high-performing teams, but it is also one of the seven habits of highly effective teams.
At Saberr, we not only help your teams create a compelling purpose statement, but we also help managers align this purpose with team goals to ensure it is embedded into everyone's work.