What is our purpose?

This is the big question executive leadership teams should be asking themselves.  Yet it’s one they rarely (sometimes never) discuss.

ENGAGE has worked with hundreds of senior leadership teams over the years, and our data tells us some pretty stark facts:

  • High-performing teams have a strong sense of purpose. In fact, they are six to seven times more likely to say their team has a clearly defined, explicit purpose compared to average or poorly performing teams.
  • When we first ask Executive teams to define their team’s purpose, we often get one of three types of response: a multitude of different (sometimes opposing) answers; a repetition of the corporate purpose (which is not the same as the team purpose); or a deafening silence, as it’s a question team members often haven’t heard before.
  • Leadership teams with a strong sense of purpose are more often rated as high performing by others (Boards, investors, C-suite minus-one leaders, customers etc.).

It’s very common for teams to lose sight of why they exist. They meet regularly and go through the process of discussing agenda items while putting their stamp on decisions. But their core purpose gets lost in the day-to-day busyness of corporate life, and their multiple priorities can pull them in different directions.

So why does having a clear team purpose at the top of an organisation matter?

Everyone needs to know their “why”

In the same way employees deeper in the business need to understand the purpose of the company overall, members of the leadership team need to understand why they are part of the Executive Committee. What is the mission this team is meant to accomplish?  If the team does not accomplish its purpose, what will the organisation be missing? 

A purpose creates focus and prioritises work

Top teams get bombarded with huge lists of tasks and activities. But where should they be spending their time?  A clear purpose helps them to prioritise their responsibilities, as it stops them from getting pulled into day-to-day tasks and keeps them focused on the important ones.

Team purpose helps create alignment

When working alongside a new executive team, our initial diagnostic found that only six in ten felt they had a common purpose and outlook.  Perhaps not surprisingly, only four in ten of the same team felt that they were aligned with achieving their planned corporate transformation, and only three in 

ten felt they practised “collective cabinet responsibility”.  Once we had clearly defined the team’s core purpose, these scores rose to the 80%+ range in just 12 months.

A shared purpose pulls executives out of their silos

Executives with a weak understanding of their shared team purpose are three to four times more likely to work in their functional silos. However, teams with clarity of purpose are up to six times more likely to collaborate and work across multiple areas as true enterprise leaders.  

Articulating your team’s purpose may seem like a challenge, but it is often already in a team’s DNA. This purpose is like a compass that helps team members know when they are on course, and when they are not.

As we begin a new year, it’s the perfect time for executive teams to improve performance by answering the all-important question; what is our core purpose as a team?

If this is something you need support with or you’d like to learn more about how ENGAGE’s diagnostic and team-coaching approach can help your ExCo, reach out to us directly.