Leadership Series: Wake Up With A Sense Of Purpose

This is one of my core principles. Everyday I work hard to ensure that members of my team can wake up with a sense of purpose. It sounds easy, but like most things in leadership – it’s difficult.

It’s a big goal to set. I try and achieve it every day – and to be honest I don’t always succeed. That’s why this is a team task. During the retros and during my walks and conversations with people, I ask and collect information that will help me work out how to make everyone ‘wake up with a sense of purpose’.

This is how we put a bounce in our team mates step, how we make them want to jump out of bed in the morning and how we inspire them to bring their best to work.

Agile has great tools to achieve this. Having the sprint backlog visible to all team members is very powerful. It focuses thought and action and leads to my next post – ‘Go home with a sense of achievement’ – but that’s next! Everyone knows what their goals are and what they will be working on. That inspiration leads to strong commitment and delivery – no guessing or wondering what to do next.

Communicate the vision and the end state – the definition of done for the work. Communicate it regularly – it’s why you are all working.

Setup a ‘pull task’ assignment instead of ‘push task’. What does this mean – it means people select the work they are going to do that day. They select from the tasks that have been agreed need to be delivered. This fosters ownership, trusts people and treats them as grown ups!

It is everyone’s responsibility to inspire each other, that is part of what makes a team great. In our teams, the purpose is often discussed and is central to the momentum of the team.

The culture of the team and the behaviors of leaders are fundamental for inspiration. The leaders and the culture must align with what is required for the team to deliver. If they do not align you will never achieve a daily sense of purpose.

As humans we long to be part of something bigger than us – a community, a family or a tribe. In my travels I often hear people say “I only stay here because of the people”, “the people I work with are family” – that’s a tribe right there. Something has bonded them together. But what? Adversary, a common ‘enemy’, surviving hard times – or a great leader. Sadly, more times than not there is no ‘great leader’ and the team has filled that void through bonding over a common adversary (the leader?).

Be the great leader that is needed. You don’t need the title. Anyone can step up and lead. You might be surprised what happens to your team and your career – great leaders are in high demand.

Simon Sinek talks about the ‘why’. I too am a big believer in this. Why are we doing the work we do? I like to trace the work we do through to a customer and anchor that with an emotion. I was leading a customer transformation team in a utility company. A pretty dry program, until we realised that our solution would help over 2.2 million people in our city. I searched for an emotional story and spoke to many people on the customer teams. Then I found it.

84 year old Mary received a bill shock – a large, unexpected bill. She was scared. Her husband had passed away and she didn’t have anyone to help her. When we spoke with Mary she explained how she was in tears when she read the bill. Her hands were shaking when she was recalling the story. Then she called the service center and our new customer experience kicked in. The agent knew how to speak to Mary and empathise, the agent’s system gave them all of the information they needed to solve Mary’s problem. Mary commented how nice the lady was on the phone and how easily they were able to put her at ease and solve her issue.

I explained this story to the team… and everyone got it. That was our teams why – to help the community.

There is a lot to share in this area, too much for this post, so I will write more in future posts.

Pull task allocation vs push, self managed teams, fun with purpose… all great topics to share later.

What’s your Mary? What’s your and your teams’ greater purpose for doing what you do? If it is simply money that makes me sad, and I would suggest looking for another job as you are wasting your skills and your time

Every day I try to find a way to inspire the team to wake up with a sense of purpose – without it life is pretty boring.

How do you instil your team and colleagues with a sense of purpose?

I suggest sitting with your teams no less than fortnightly and discussing why they come to work every day. Personally I do it everyday, just a little, weaved in to conversations and actions. Inspiration is a hungry beast and needs to be fed regularly. It is this factor that will pull a great team through a tough time. It is this that will make a team great – a tribe that is unstoppable.

Be the great leader. Build your tribe around inspiration, around a common goal, around trust, truth and transparency. It’s hard but worth it.

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