Just by happenstance, May is Purpose Month for me. Four times (at least) I’ll be participating in or facilitating a team purpose exercise. For me, at the heart of a ‘purpose statement’ should be the very straightforward notion that it motivates behavioural change. To ensure that my part in Purpose Month is purpose-FULL (of course spelling error deliberate), I am taking a running start at Toast Rules for Reasonable Purpose Statements:
#1 – The first rule of team purpose is don’t talk about team purpose. No wait… just the opposite. Team purpose should be something the team can talk about. So it can’t be all business buzzword bingo. It has to be real, resonant, and righteous.
#2 – If I put it on the wall next to my desk and read it every day, it does not after several weeks trigger an impulse to slit my wrists.
#3 – A team’s purpose doesn’t necessarily have to resonant with anyone outside the team. Seriously people, stop writing purpose statements for your team as a tag line for your team brand. This isn’t about branding yourselves to other people; it’s about identifying why the hell you want to work together as a team and what you’re going to do with and for each other.
#4 – Don’t be afraid to be aspirational and inspirational. There are worse things than a motivational poster. But don’t make it so hokey it makes everyone violate rule #2. Corollary: If you start making fun of your purpose, your team needs to write a new one.
#5 – In addition to not being your brand, your purpose also isn’t meant to be a statement about what you want to be when you grow up. That’s a mission or a vision or a future state or a <insert standard consultant speak here> thing. Your purpose is at the heart of your team… it’s what you feel. Not what you do, what you are going to be or what other people see you as.
I’m running our new Consumer Delivery team purpose against these rules and coming out the other side reasonably well satisfied. The team is going to squirm a bit when I write it here, but we landed on a purpose “Bridge from ambition to reality”, describing our job as “Together, focus on the right thing, get it done, and make it work well.” Even as I type this, I’m nodding my head so at least for this member of the team, it’s good. Those of you who are not Consumer Delivery IAG Consumer Division NZ, see rule #3… don’t care if you don’t like it; You’re not the target audience. I still think we should have kept our job as “get shit done, be awesome, kick ass” but yeah. There’s probably a rule 6 in there about profanity in these things.
As for my personal purpose… the reason I get up every morning? I can thank Andrew and Sandra for making me articulate it about a month ago. I’m here to turn on the lights behind other people’s eyes.
“Where you allow your attention to go ultimately says more about you as a human being than anything that you put in your mission statement.” ~ Merlin Mann