6 Steps to Clarify Your Team’s Purpose

I’m just beginning to analyze the data collected from 130 church senior leadership teams as part of our Strengthen Your Leadership Team Study.  We’ve got a robust data set to work with, and I’m excited for what we’re going to learn from it.  I’ll share what we’ve learned through this website over the next several months.  (Don’t miss a post – subscribe now).

Among other indicators of team effectiveness, our assessment (the Team Diagnostic Survey) asked team members to rate the clarify, challenge, and consequentiality of their team’s purpose.

I was fascinated – though not really surprised – to learn that Consequentiality of Team Purpose was the HIGHEST rated indicator in the entire data set but Clarify and Challenge of Team Purpose were the LOWEST rated indicators in the entire data.  In other words, the pastors agreed that their team purposes were extremely consequential, but not very clear or challenging.  Though they believed their team’s work was really important, they didn’t clearly know what it was nor did they believe their purpose was that challenging.

What they indicated is common for many teams, leadership teams or not.  We believe that what we are doing – even though it may be largely esoteric and amorphous – is really important.  It is consequential.  But we don’t have a clear sense of what specifically we are doing, nor does it seem to be that challenging to accomplish.

But, great teams possess a clear, challenging, and consequential team purpose.  Here are six ways to increase clarity and challenge of purpose (along with questions that can guide discussions among your team members): 

  1. Identify the core outcomes of your team’s work. What is it, specifically, that our team will be held accountable for?
  2. Determine the crucial – meaty, consequential, and challenging –  tasks your team must interdependently tackle.  For senior leadership teams, that usually means things such as establishing vision, determining or modifying strategy, building organizational capability (financial or human resources), and/or managing performance.  What is it that our team, and only our team, can accomplish?
  3. Based on those identified outcomes and tasks, engage in robust dialogue to narrow and establish the team’s purpose, different from the organization’s purpose.  For many senior leadership teams, the team purpose is something like “fulfilling the mission and vision of the church.”  But, a good team purpose is distinct from the organization’s, even for the leadership team.  How can we frame our team’s purpose, distinct from the purpose of our larger organization?
  4. Give everything else that doesn’t fit that purpose away.  For senior leadership teams, that might mean administrative minutia or coordinating activities.  Give that stuff to other individuals or teams, even new teams that might need to be created.   What are we doing that is outside of our team purpose?
  5. Increase assessment of your team’s outcomes, so that team members know whether they have performed effectively or not. How do we know if we’ve accomplished our goals or not?
  6. If your team has accomplished its outcomes, celebrate success.  Then, raise the bar for team performance by establishing the next challenge for the team to pursue..  This way, team members are continually challenged and continue to advance the organization’s mission. Don’t rest on your laurels.  How can we continue to improve our work as a team and increase our impact?

*Photo by Seamus Murray on Flickr.


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  1. Top Posts of 2012 | Ryan Hartwig April 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    […] 6 Steps to Clarify Your Team’s Purpose […]

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