Improving Performance Starts with Individual and Team Purpose | Fierce

image of 4 employees in a meeting room reviewing how purpose can improve performance

A purpose is more than a goal. It’s a goal plus the fuel to accomplish something bigger than yourself.

Goals reside on the ground level, but purpose lives in the cloud at 40,000 ft. Purpose gives direction and clarity to all the daily tasks and projects we do in the workplace. This week’s tip for creating high-performing teams is to instill your team with a sense of purpose so they can accomplish more than they could as individual contributors.

Throughout much of the 20th century business was all about efficiency. It was widget-driven and viewed talent through the lens of the assembly line. With the right training, systems, and management, you could squeeze max efficiency out of each employee’s 9 to 5 efforts. Unfortunately, this focus made people feel like robots and reached its zenith in the late ’90s and was even lampooned in the cult classic – Office Space.  

A purpose is like a guiding star and recognizes a basic human need. Without purpose, we all lose hope and motivation to continue performing our best. Purpose directs behavior and provides a reason for people to work together and achieve a shared goal. It’s what brings all stakeholders together and gives clarity to the “why” behind their work. 

One reason many individuals and teams struggle is that they lack purpose in their work. When obstacles or boredom knocks on their doors, it becomes hard to push through and procrastination, apathy, and burnout occurs. 

What is Purpose

Human beings have an inherent desire for purpose, a fundamental component of a fulfilling life. Victor Frankl’s seminal work, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” illustrates this point, revealing that concentration camp inmates who possessed a goal or purpose were most likely to survive. 

But you don’t have to be in a life-or-death situation to need a sense of purpose. Most of us can relate to something as simple as following a sports team can give you a sense of purpose. You want your team to win, and it motivates you to support and follow in a shared group.

In the workplace, a sense of purpose is crucial for personal and organizational success. Studies show that 76% of individuals crave a sense of purpose in their jobs. When individuals feel they are part of a larger objective, it fosters feelings of connection and fulfillment. Purpose, also known as intrinsic motivation, serves as a driving force that enables individuals to overcome obstacles and perform at their highest potential.

Why Teams Need Purpose

Having a sense of purpose leads to better job satisfaction and productivity. Here’s why high-performing teams build a sense of purpose:

  • According to a survey by LinkedIn, employees who feel a sense of purpose are more likely to stay with their company long-term and are more engaged and productive.
  • Purpose-driven companies experience more growth compared to non-purpose-driven companies, according to Harvard Business Review.
  • Successful teams according to researcher Daniel Coyle and author of the culture code have three key elements: belonging, psychological safety, and alignment. Alignment is team purpose and provides a reason for why the team exists, and motivates them into action.
  • Having a team purpose can lead to better prioritization, improved collaboration, and enhanced motivation.

Having a clear team purpose can complement an organization’s purpose by connecting it to everyday activities and giving team members a sense of belonging and a deeper connection to their work. By using the team’s purpose as a compass to guide decision-making, team members can remain aligned and avoid wasting valuable time on less important tasks. 

When team members have a strong sense of purpose at work it leads to numerous benefits, including feeling more motivated and engaged, reducing stress, improving workplace relationships, and bringing personal fulfillment. By designing a powerful team purpose, teams can experience better prioritization, improved collaboration, and enhanced motivation. So why not start working on your team’s purpose today?

Instilling Purpose for High Performance

Create a Shared Story

In the pursuit of building a purposeful culture, storytelling and slogans are vital tools. They help create a strong connection between where we are now and where we aspire to be. 

Adam Grant’s research on intrinsic motivation, virtuous behaviors, and the power of purpose provides a compelling example. When he worked with the University of Michigan call center, he discovered that the employees were disheartened by the rejection they faced while soliciting donations from alumni. But when he introduced them to a scholarship recipient named Will, the callers were inspired to work harder and achieved remarkable results. The simple act of meeting Will for just five minutes boosted the number of calls made by 142%, and weekly revenues increased by 172%. This positive trend continued because the “story of Will” inspired a culture where everyone goes above and beyond for a shared, meaningful purpose.

By incorporating stories and slogans, your organization can create a high-purpose environment that is flooded with signals that link present efforts to a meaningful future goal. It’s a powerful way to motivate your team, reminding them of why they work and where they should direct their energy.

Craft a Purpose Statement

In the quest to build a high-performance team, a purpose statement is essential. It’s a brief and concise statement that encapsulates the reason of the team, and how their work fits into the larger picture of the organization.

An effective team purpose statement should answer the following questions:

  • What does the team do?
  • Who benefits from their work?
  • Why is the team doing what they do?

More importantly, the purpose statement should be meaningful and inspiring to each team member, making them feel their work is worthwhile and contributing to the greater good.

Write a Stump Speech

To clarify your purpose, Susan Scott, Founder of Fierce, Inc., recommends on an annual basis craft a stump speech. This is something most of us are familiar with. Politicians seeking support hone a short pithy speech to rally the troops to get to the polls. In the same spirit, creating a team stump spirit that can be repeated serve to motivate and clarify the purpose of the team. You can think of the stump speech as combining the best of a team story and purpose statement.

These questions will help build your team’s stump speech:

  • Where are you going?
  • Why are you going there?
  • Who is going with you?
  • How are you going to get there?

Make your speech clear and concise so everyone on the team can repeat it to anyone who asks…and even those who don’t.


In the workplace, a sense of purpose is crucial to building high-performing teams. Having a clear team purpose can complement an organization’s purpose by connecting it to everyday activities and giving team members a sense of belonging and a deeper connection to their work. By using the team’s purpose as a compass to guide decision-making, team members can remain aligned and avoid wasting valuable time on less important tasks.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote sums it up, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”


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