One of the most important things a team needs to succeed and thrive is commitment to a shared purpose. On paper this sounds pretty simple. Pick a meaningful purpose, talk about it as a team and voila, you are ready to go. In practice, generating commitment to a shared purpose is not so easy, but with the right conversation it is possible. Here’s an example.
A Breakdown in Trust
This is the story of a team in conflict. To the outside observer they looked like two teams, one based in the USA and the other in the Far East. Both teams managed a critical supply chain function for a global enterprise providing 24×7 support. They didn’t work well together, trust was low and blame was rampant. If something went wrong, it was the other team’s fault. Everybody had to work extra hard to make things work and morale was low.
We agreed to hold a whole team face to face workshop in the USA to address the issues and start to rebuild the sense of one team. We gathered about 20 people in the room and I started the workshop with a simple care exercise. Each member of the team talks about what they care about in the context of the team and why it is important to them. I asked for a volunteer and the team leader stood up. He did a great job sharing the team’s mission and how it supported the company’s goals. This trend continued with minor variations until one of the more junior members, a lady from the Far East team, stood up for her turn.
Speaking from the Heart
Unlike her colleagues, she truly spoke from the heart. She explained the company had employed her from school and provided a standard of living for her and her family she had previously only dreamed of. Her daughter was doing well in school and she wanted the same opportunities for her. She was committed to make this happen by working hard for the company. She spoke passionately and left no doubt of what she cared about and why she was on the team.
The remaining colleagues followed her lead, they also talked from the heart about what was important to them. I noticed a shift in the room. From this moment on the broken team was transformed into a new team. Colleagues started to see each other as who they really were and trust was growing because the shared care for the company and the team was evident. Blame was replaced by seeking to understand, extending trust that the other person’s intention was good.
It Takes Courage
I don’t know if this will work for every team. It takes real courage to share what you really care about. I believe if you do, you will find out if this is the right team for you.