Identity Crisis

Business problems and supportWhat is your team’s identity? It has one – it just may not be the one you want it to have.

I define identity as a combination of your team’s purpose and how team members see themselves contributing to that purpose.

Does your team have a formal purpose statement? Most teams and companies do not have a formal purpose statement beyond “making widgets” (widgets being whatever your team’s products or services are) and “making money.”

Delivering quality products and services is a very good thing, as is making a profit. The only way your team or company can sustain itself is to bring in more revenues than it spends.

Now, some of my non-profit and government clients push back on the “making money” requirement. I worked in non-profits for 15 years and in government for 3 years. If we didn’t generate revenues above expenses in those industries, we faced difficult decisions – laying people off, merging or closing business units, etc.

Call it whatever you want, but generating value in the form of hard dollars is a requirement for 99 percent of the businesses operating today.

However, “making widgets” and “making money” doesn’t address your team’s meaningful contributions very effectively. A purpose statement can.

A purpose statement is a description of your team’s present-day “reason for being” – what it does, for whom, and “to what end” – how a customer benefits from your product or service.

Here’s the purpose statement from WD-40, a terrific company that I’ve studied for years: “Our brands create positive lasting memories by solving problems in homes and factories around the world.”

Their purpose statement describes what they do (solve problems) for whom (people in homes and factories around the world) and to what end (create positive lasting memories).

Before you craft your team or company’s purpose statement, seek out purpose statements from companies you admire. Even your local independent coffee house or bookstore might have a terrific “reason for being” you can learn from.

Once your purpose statement is formalized and communicated, the hard part begins – aligning team members’ heads, hearts, and hands to that purpose.

Great bosses are constantly engaging in dialog with team members. They reinforce their team’s reason for being daily. More importantly, they’re helping each individual team member understand how their unique skills and passions align with the purpose statement.

Great bosses validate team members’ contributions and enthusiasm for the team’s products, services, customers – and purpose. The team’s identity is formed daily by employees embracing the team’s purpose as their own.

A perfect purpose statement alone will not inspire every team member. It takes intentional dialog, communication, and understanding between bosses and team members to create passionate players who are thrilled at their opportunities every day.

What is your team’s identity? What outcomes are measured, monitored, and rewarded daily? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

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