Why do we exist as a team? A seemingly simple question yet if you were to ask each person in your team would they respond with identical answers? Having clarity around team purpose is the key to a high functioning, high performing team.
One of the clients I have been working with recently completed activities focused on team cohesion and teamwork. In order to gauge the effectiveness of the team the team leader conducted a survey with individual team members. They then reflected on the findings and held meetings with their teams to discuss the outcomes. In many cases, team leaders found the results were quite different than what they expected. Team members had a differing view of how the team was functioning to the team leader’s view. Without clear team purpose, these discrepancies are more likely to arise leading to increased confusion and conflict.
Purpose is the desire to do something that has meaning and is important. According to Dan Pink in his book Drive: What motivates us, a sense of purpose is an intrinsic motivator, it requires attention and focus for success. Just as Simon Sinek describes the importance of ‘starting with the why’, a team purpose statement defines the team and describes why it exists. This then keeps everyone moving in the same direction and shows team members what they are aiming for and how their efforts are worthwhile.
I highly recommend creating a team charter to collectively define the purpose of the team by clarifying factors that will lead to success for the team, team goals, deliverables, milestones, key values and behaviours. The team charter acts as a vision for the team, helping to get crystal clear on why the team exist and on their focus. It serves as a touchstone for decision making and day to day behaviour.
The benefits of a team charter are numerous including:
- Ensuring buy-in from all team members
- Holding all team members accountable
- Clarifying roles and responsibilities within the team
- Demonstrating the team’s purpose to the rest of the organisation
- Providing clarity and reducing confusion in cases where conflicts may arise.
A team charter is created collectively, therefore it encourages buy-in and support from every member of the team. It motivates, inspires and energises providing the clarity around the who, what, and why of the team. When team members come and go it is important to review and revise the team charter to allow new team members equal contribution, support, and buy-in.
I have seen team charters in action and watched teams flourish. Some of the best examples of a team charter is a big, bold and colourful laminated page proudly displayed in a prominent position for all team members and others in an organisation to see. This not only acts as a constant reminder to team members of their purpose, but allows others that interact with the team (other leaders, work groups, etc.) to also understand why this team exists and what drives it to succeed.
What might happen without a team charter?
Teams are often created and expected to deliver in a short space of time making it tempting to dive straight into task mode. There may be a sense that there is not enough time to hold an ‘airy fairy’ workshop that seemingly produces no deliverables. In fact, there will probably be those who don’t feel a team charter is needed yet nothing is further from the truth. Not having a team charter can quickly and easily result in confusion and chaos due to lack of clarity around purpose, goals and team direction.
It doesn’t have to take long to create a charter. I have seen team charters being created during workshops that last a couple of hours, depending on the size and scope of the team. The principles of Agile* say, ‘you have to move slow so you can move fast’, the time spent up front to create the charter is well worth the effort. Getting everyone on board and on the same page early on leads to greater overall results.
The team charter is the collective voice of the team creating cohesiveness, stability and high performance. The loudest voices no longer have power in loudness alone to push their agendas over others. Teams sign up for teamwork, a team charter enables this to happen.
For further information on how to create a team charter along with a handy template download this Ebook on Rapid Team Alignment.
*Agile Development approach