The Purpose of Purpose

The father of modern management, Peter Drucker said that an organization's mission directs you to "do the right things now and into the future so everyone...can say, "What I am doing contributes to the goal."  When mission or purpose is fuzzy, people aren't clear on direction, they may not be motivated beyond self-interest and rewards, nor may they be inspired to take actions that are "outside the lines" of their job description.  To be purpose-driven is to live out, day-by-day, minute-by-minute, the movement from where we are to where we are going together. People want to experience that in the interactions they have with their bosses.

To build collaboration, team work, and collaboration on teams, managers and leaders must begin with "WHY."  Why are we here?  Why are you here?  Why must we work together to achieve the goal?   These are the questions that must be answered when new teams are formed and when new individuals come on board.

Here are some strategies for leaders who want to inspire and motivate teams to step outside the lines.

  • Begin with Purpose Every Time -  Always communicate what the goal is and what you are hoping to achieve.  Today's meeting is focused on determining ways to increase participation in the new employee health initiative...this meeting will be a success if we generate so many ideas, that it will be hard to pick the top 3-5 that we can move into action.
  • Build Trust Through Relationship Building - This can be done 1:1 and one:many by simply acknowledging the good stuff, giving people opportunities to work together in a meeting, or by asking a simple question, What would success look like for you?  Don't ever underestimate the importance of conversations had in the break room, on the elevator, just-in-time.
  • Pay Attention -  When purpose is unclear, people are uncertain, fearful to speak up, and may not "operate like a team" -- preferring to stay in their individual silos.  Watch out for this -- these are clues for the boss to find ways to communicate in ways that promote shared values & priorities, invite participation, and be visible.

For strategies on how to build team work and better orient your team to purpose and direction, contact us at


Mary McGuinness