Managing Teamwork - Direction and purpose

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The foundation of any team is a clear direction. After all, how can a team achieve if they don't know what it is that they are trying to achieve?

In order to set the direction for your team you need to establish team goals. These are the collective goals that every member of the team should be working towards no matter what their individual contribution is.

Setting team goals

When setting goals there are a few criteria that you should adhere to:

  1. Goals should be SMART - goals should to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (see below).
  2. Goals should be consequential - the goals actually have to matter. People need to care about achieving them. Goals should be linked to rewards and recognition, and ideally, inspire people to achieve them because they see them as important and meaningful.”
Direction and purpose

The SMART criteria

Goals needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

  • Specific - specific goals have a much greater chance of being accomplished compared to general ones. General goals allow too much flexibility and steer you off course.
  • Measurable - how will you know if a goal has been successful? Measurement provides a way to track progress and keep motivation levels high. To determine if a goal is measurable, you should ask: How much? How many? By when?
  • Achievable - is the goal within the team's control and influence? Is it achievable with the available resources and within the timeframe? A goal should be challenging and stretch the team's capabilities but still be feasible. Goals that are too hard (or impossible) cause people to become disheartened.
  • Relevant - does the goal help the organisation achieve its strategic objectives? The goals that your team are striving to achieve should be aligned with what the organisation is trying to achieve. Make sure that your goals are aligned to the goals above you.
  • Time-bound - is the goal grounded with a timeframe (i.e. a deadline)? Timeframes create a sense of urgency and provide a fixed point to measure progress against.

Team purpose

A team purpose is essentially a statement about why the team exists and how it contributes to the success of the organisation.

It helps team members to see that their work is important and meaningful, which in turn motivates them and drives a sense of accountability.

Take for example a retail business. A team working in the distribution centre may not see how their contributions really matter, but they are an integral part of the customer's experience.

If the wrong items are packed, items are packed poorly or the order is sent late, this will negatively impact the customer's perception of the organisation and the customer may take their business elsewhere next time.

Understanding just how important their work is to the success of the organisation can help to drive the right behaviours.

Creating a team purpose

A good starting point to creating a team purpose is to answer the following questions:

  • What does your team do?
  • What positive impact does this have on the organisation and its customers?
  • What impact would it have on the organisation and its customers if your team didn't deliver this?

Once you have the answers to those questions, you can communicate this to your team as is, or cut it down to a concise purpose statement. For example, a customer service team in a retail store may have something like...

"We are the face of our brand. We exist to satisfy our customers and influence their decision to do business with us again." - Customer Service Team

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Next: Managing Teamwork - Structure