The Missing Link to Engaged Teams
The fundamental question, that has become a universally tired cliché, is, “How do you get everyone on the same page?” Every organization has a mission and important work that must get done. Yet, even the strongest teams often find themselves struggling to sustain a culture where ownership and engagement remain strong in the emotionally stressful and incessantly busy world of work. In the aftermath of a raging pandemic, the disconnect has been exacerbated by splitting team members into remote and in-person sub-groupings.
What if, for all the time and energy teams are investing in trying to grow engagement, improve communication, and increase effectiveness through project management, there is a crucial aspect of teamwork that is being overlooked? What if the aspect that could change everything is purpose? Jennifer MacMillan, organizational development consultant, states, “A clear, common, compelling purpose that is important to each of the individual team members, is the single biggest factor in team success. It is the task or purpose of the team that provides the reason for cooperation. One of the biggest reasons for team failure is an inadequate answer to the question: ‘Why should we team up?’”
Author and leadership guru, Simon Sinek, has said, “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.” He goes on to say that very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY, which is their purpose, cause, or belief. (Read more from Sinek here.) Recently at ULEAD, we have begun starting our staff meetings by inviting different team members to recite our mission statement as a precursor to the agenda of the day. Though this may seem like a trite ritual, it has created a moment of awareness that centers us in the WHY (purpose) of our work.
Awareness is not the same as thinking. True awareness enables us to not be pulled into the emotional and mental tugs-of-war that form most of human life. Contemplative-activist, Father Richard Rohr says, “To look out from this untouchable silence is what we mean by contemplation.” The “untouchable silence” that team members experience when their hearts and minds are invited to reflect on why they are doing what they do creates connection to the meaning behind the work. This reflection also centers people in the moment, and to the power of their combined gifts they each bring to the work, which is hard to achieve in the constant rush of responsibilities that wash over us daily.
The reality is, many leaders strive and strain to get their people on the same page, when some on their team aren’t even reading from the same book. We forget that people are incredibly diverse human beings who experience powerful emotions, not only in their personal lives, but in the workplace. Helping them to reflect on and re-center on your purpose invites people to be present to the work and to each other. This presence allows whatever people are thinking, feeling, or doing to be transmuted into something useful (meaningful) for themselves, for the team, and for the mission.