5 Ways to Build Purpose

As young children, we are expected to fail and learn from our mistakes. But somewhere along the path to adulthood, many of us start to see failure as something to be avoided at all costs. Many of us fear failure more than anything else in our lives.

And yet, those who study group psychology all agree: purpose and drive must be forged from moments of crisis and failure. What distinguishes great teams from mediocre teams is a sense of shared purpose and common goals. Leaders therefore need to learn how to harness difficult moments rather than avoiding or preventing them.

In The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle explains that building purpose is “not as simple as carving a mission statement in granite or encouraging everyone to recite from a hymnal of catchphrases. It’s a never-ending process of trying, failing, reflecting, and above all, learning.” We tend to think of purpose as a static concept rather than an ongoing process that continually evolves and changes. By changing the way you think about purpose, you can start to do better.

It’s one thing to say that you’re going to start embracing failure and harnessing moments of crisis, but another to actually follow through. Here are some ways you can start to consciously make effective use of challenging moments:

  1. Know your priorities, and make sure everyone else does too.

Have regular conversations with your team about what you’re working for and why. And don’t forget to include in-group relationships on your list of priorities. Regardless of the specific project you’re working on, the larger goal should be to strengthen the group’s foundation.

  1. Don’t be afraid to sound like a broken record.

When it comes to articulating goals, repetition is key. Those in leadership positions tend to assume that everyone understands their goals and priorities, when often that isn’t the case. So explain yourself again and again, even if it feels unnecessary or redundant.

  1. Distinguish between proficiency and creativity.

All skills can be classified under the categories of proficiency or creativity. Proficiency is about being consistent, while creativity involves building something new. As a leader, your job is to determine which type of skill is necessary to achieve your goal, and then allocate the resources necessary for those skills to be deployed.

  1. Develop a group language.

Catchphrases may seem corny, but they’re surprisingly effective at helping to build a sense of community around a shared purpose. It’s no coincidence that most successful brands have memorable catchphrases that codify the organization’s values.

  1. Learn how to measure success.

This suggestion calls for leaders to figure out what really matters and how to determine when a goal has been reached. If you can’t set a concrete benchmark for success, how can your team be expected to stay motivated?

What actions do you take on a daily basis to build purpose? Are you struggling to translate failures or crises into valuable lessons? If you’d like to talk about the challenges you’re facing, you can contact me via my website, LinkedIn and Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you.

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