Episode 3 - Define Your Team Purpose
[00:00:00] Lauren Marie: Welcome to The Integrated Leader Podcast. I'm Lauren Marie, and I'm with my partner in business and in life, Loren Kutsko. We are the founders of Kutsko Consulting, an organization that enables human collaboration by providing the right data and technology to lead your people.
[00:00:20] We are introducing a learning program for leaders called the 8 Dimensions of a Healthy Team. As a leader, management and coaching is something you need to be doing every single day, so why not be excellent at it?
[00:00:32] In this eight part series you will be introduced to the basic principles to engage, grow, and align your team for success. It's simple, but rarely is it easy. If you want to reflect on the current status of your team as you listen along, we have a free assessment at teamhealthscore.com that will give you a baseline of where your team stands today.
[00:00:53] You can also learn all about our other products and services like hiring assessments, individual coaching, group coaching and certifications. Thankfully, there's a growing awareness in many organizations about the benefits of Emotional Intelligence and the importance of self-reflection. More and more executives are discovering the impact that these have on the multiple bottom lines they are accountable to scale. Business is personal, so let's be good at it.
Today we are talking about the third of the eight dimensions of a healthy team, Team Purpose. Our goal is to define what we mean when we say team purpose and to have a conversation about how and why it impacts the health of your team. Let's dive in.
[00:01:34] Loren: It's good to be here with you.
[00:01:36] Lauren Marie It's nice to be with you today.
[00:01:37] Lauren Marie: I'm excited to talk about this topic. What is our working definition?
[00:01:40] Loren: What's the purpose of team purpose? Why, why is that important? You have to have it, and it has to be clear. Everyone on the team has to understand it and know where they're headed. They've got to know it as intimately as you do. And if you don't know it, then they're never going to know it.
[00:01:54] We generally focus, in our work with teams on how to collaborate effectively and we're not strategy consultants. And purpose, in my head, sort of falls into the category of strategy and goal setting and where are we headed?
[00:02:07] But we also noticed that we can't ignore it as you're talking about collaboration, we included it here, because one of the most common complaints that we hear as we're working with clients, particularly, the members of their team, not the leader, not the manager who is often the one hiring us, but when the members sit down and they tell us what's working and what's not about their role. A lot of times they say, I don't understand what my boss wants. I don't understand where the organization is going. We have no strategy.
[00:02:36] And so we included it here, in our eight dimensions of a healthy team as the third dimension. Because a team that doesn't have a purpose isn't really a team at all. It's more of a group of people that just sort of happens to be sharing the same space or having the same person sign their paychecks.
[00:02:54] But they're all really just individual contributors trying to stay in their own lane. I'm not actually going to say that there's something wrong with that.
[00:03:00] But when we put teams together, we're looking for one plus one plus one equals 10, not one plus one plus one equals three.
[00:03:07] Lauren Marie: Can I pause on that analogy?
[00:03:09] I feel like it is trying to say we can accomplish more and be more productive than we could by ourselves. And I think that's part of it, but I almost want to take it a step further in saying it's something more beautiful and exciting.
[00:03:28] You can make a three ingredient bread. It makes something beautiful and nourishing and good for the world. We're not saying we're making more water, yeast and flour.
[00:03:39] Loren: Got it. I see what you're saying. By putting yeast and flour and water together, you're not just creating more of those things. You're creating a whole new thing. Right. That separate, none of those three things can make bread.
[00:03:53] Yeah. It's almost a chemistry project. It is a chemistry project. I mean, baking is chemistry. Absolutely. Right. And that's what leading your team is. If you, as the leader, can assemble the right team. It's not going to work unless we all know what we're doing here.
[00:04:06] Lauren Marie: Yeah. What does a team lose by not understanding their purpose?
[00:04:11] Loren: They lose the value of being a team in the first place. It's hard to ignore that right now we are in the middle of what some people are calling the Great Resignation. So when we talk to people you know, we're going, we're shifting from a place where we were recovering, at least in, in the West, but really in the globe, from major high levels of unemployment to now a time when people are voluntarily, in droves, leaving their current secure jobs, and people are pontificating about why that is.
[00:04:45] And they're saying that, as COVID happened, as it created these lockdowns and sent people home and changed everything, they're starting to get really in touch with what's important, so they’re reorienting their lives towards their personal purpose. And sometimes they're realizing that that personal purpose is in conflict with their work purpose.
[00:05:04] The one that had been there before, or sometimes they're realizing they're unclear about what their work purpose is. They're not going to stay in a job that doesn't have a purpose that's motivating to them. A lot of times, if a leader or an organization isn't giving a clear sense of purpose to the workers, then what's happening is they have to create their own, and the reason that we know that is because it's a human need to have meaning. And I mean, some psychologists have called us meaning makers, we’re meaning factories. If nobody gives us the meeting, we will invent one. We need a reason to be and to do. If our organization or our team leader doesn't give us a clear purpose that motivates us to show up every day and stick with it we'll come up with our own. And I think one of the things I see with the Great Resignation happening is people have been surviving on their own sense of meaning. If they haven't been able to use and stand on the foundation of meaning that's given to them by their team of what they're working on together.
[00:06:14] Then probably they've replaced it with something a little bit smaller, like putting food on the table or creating financial security for my family or paying my mortgage or something like that. And there's nothing wrong with those...
[00:06:28] Lauren Marie: Those are great. You need those. Loren: Those are great. And you need those. But I think when push comes to shove, people will be like, well, if that's all I'm doing, I can do that in many different ways. Right. So let's go see what else is out there. The alternative to that is that the team leader creates meaning that's so compelling for people that they stay engaged, that they feel like every day they're voluntarily coming in to participate in this work, because that meaning is something that they've bought into and that they're excited about.
[00:06:57] Lauren Marie: So can you describe for me, perhaps the difference between accomplishing a task for the team? And that of a team purpose? Because I feel like a lot of teams come together to solve a problem or to fix a conflict or repair something. But that seems smaller than the overarching purpose. Does that make sense?
[00:07:21] Loren: What I hear you saying is that maybe there's sort of a small reason that we're together, kind of an intermediate reason or something that we're going to finish. And then if the team doesn't have a larger purpose that that fits within, then when that first task or purpose is accomplished, there are no longer going to understand the sense of being together again. So you need something that's bigger that's going to accommodate many tasks. So when we finish one, we're going to redo another one.
[00:07:45] So I think the example was about how our actual purpose here is to improve the reputation of the hospital or the business, right? That's, cleaning this mess up, because the low quality or the mess was ultimately creating a problem for the customers that the business is trying to serve.
[00:08:03] By raising things up a level and going from clean up this mess, to improve our reputation, it allows you to then pivot after that first problem is solved and go well, where's the other areas that are our organization, or our business is having our reputation is being tarnished and let's go there next.
[00:08:19] Then you've created this purpose around the team that the team can move from one task to the next and they can stay engaged. I think that's not easy to do. That's one of the reasons that as a leader, if you're listening to this. You know, you're kind of like, well, yeah, I don't have the next purpose. Tthat's the hard work of being a leader is coming up with the next one, because maybe your leader is not giving it to you. How do we come up with something that's compelling enough to keep our team engaged?
[00:08:43] Lauren Marie: So do you have any insight for a leader listening? That's like, oh yeah, I don't, I don't really know what the larger purpose is. Are there reflective questions or a book that you would recommend?
[00:08:57] Loren: We generally recommend a model called OKRs: Objectives and Key Results. Balanced Scorecard, SMART goals, vision statements, and mission statements.
[00:09:07] And, you know, there's always sort of some new flavor and in a lot of ways, the latest one is OKRs and it's hot right now. It's pretty effective. You know, it, it came out of Silicon Valley and Google and some of the venture capital firms there and it's working. And one of the reasons that they find it's working is because it does do a good job of capturing the left brain and the right brain, the art and the science, because you've got two pieces and one of them is the Objective - the O - and the other one is the Key Result, the KR. First we need this objective and that's, that really is the purpose that we're talking about. So it's this high level compelling kind of inspiring thing. That is a little bit more right brain that's going to the reason that we're showing up and coming to work every day. If we can think of an example that everybody here knows, if you've got to go into work and do something, like answer the phones in a call center, but you're doing it for The Red Cross after a major disaster or something like that, then you want an objective, which is compelling.
[00:10:09] Respond to this disaster effectively, respond to all disasters effectively would be an organizational one, respond to this particular disaster effectively might be the task force, it can be a little bit loose there's room in the objective to just say what we're trying to do here.
[00:10:23] We're trying to respond to this disaster effectively. What happens if you only have that is that you don't necessarily know how to keep people on track for what that actually looks like. So you need a way to get more specific. And when you get more specific, that's where these smart goals come into play and you need something to measure.
[00:10:40] So how do we measure effective disaster response?
[00:10:44] So you were asking about what do we recommend managers do if they realize they need objectives? We would say go through an Objective and Key Result - an OKR - setting process. That's where we recommend different consultants. We also often help clients implement software that helps do this.
[00:10:57] So one of the software tools that we use a lot is 15Five, which has an OKR module in it and some great training and resources on how to develop those through your organization. One of the reasons that you need some software to help with this is that they link up with one another. So a department's objective and key results should roll up and influence the next level in the org chart above them. When one department accomplishes their objective, it then automatically impacts the objective above it, quote/unquote, in the org chart. It's helpful to have software that links goals together. If you don't want to implement something quite as heavy as 15Five, which also has a lot of resources in it on measuring one-on-ones and holding people accountable to giving feedback in a healthy way to one another, Asana also does a great job of OKRs. So if you're Asana users, just from like managing projects and tasks, there's a goals module that you can set up in plenty of training from Asana and plenty of Asana consultants in the world that can help you implement goals that way.
[00:11:56] Lauren Marie: Wow. How does a manager develop the objectives with their direct reports? Is that a collaboration effort is that dictated to the director report? How do you not suck as a boss with OKRs?
[00:12:08] Loren: Yeah. Well, there's... there may be a couple of questions there. So did you ask about how to communicate purpose through OKRs that already exist or how to develop ones that don't exist with your team? Both of those? Yeah. So one of the things about communication that we believe is that it has to happen over and over, right?
[00:12:27] I think there's a book out there. Somebody said. You know, vision or purpose is a leaky bucket, right. You just have to keep pouring it in. The communication protocols that we'll talk about in another podcast episode is how to communicate effectively. Well, one of the main things that has to happen when you're trying to communicate to your team is frequency and repeat, repeat, repeat.
[00:12:46] Part of the reason that we recommend that you're in front of your team as a group every single week, and that you're in front of each member of your team, one-on-one every single week is because you have an agenda of things that you need to say to them and reminding them of the team purpose is part of that.
[00:13:01] So every time you gather the whole team, you're just going to say the same thing over and over again. Right? So we're here to effectively respond to this disaster. You don't have to come up with new illustrations or a new PowerPoint deck or a new story or a new video every single time. You just need to say it.
[00:13:18] And then the other thing is that that's not necessarily a place in the team meeting to have people say, I don't understand that. Can you explain it to me? You can then say, let's take this offline? In our next one-on-one let's you and I have a conversation, cause it's so important that you, as a member of this team, understand that purpose that I'll spend all the time I need to, to make sure that you understand. We cannot have misunderstanding of our team purpose on this team. So in our one-on-ones let's go to lunch. Let's schedule a follow-up but we're not going to do that every team meeting, we're just going to repeat it quickly.
[00:13:48] Then in the one-on-ones is an opportunity to contextualize that team purpose to the specific person. So you know what their goals are, what they're responsible for, what you're counting on them for as a member of your team. And you can connect the team purpose to that and give them an opportunity to ask questions.
[00:14:04] It would not be too much to repeat the team purpose twice a week to each person once in the one-on-one and once in the team meeting.
[00:14:12] Lauren Marie: Wow. I hear a lot of the managers that I've talked to say, I don't have time to do that. I have a lot of my own tasks and objectives to get done on top of managing, period. How could I possibly meet with each individual on my team once a week?
[00:14:31] Loren: Right. So managers feel like that all the time. They're all saying that. I don't have time to repeat communication. I need these people to get it and dive in and do their work to do it. Right. That's a lot of what needs to be unlearned about leadership, frankly.
[00:14:46] Lauren Marie: Why do you think it became that? Why do you think it became this authoritarian? Just do it, figure it out. Do what I say.
[00:14:55] Loren: Yeah, well, I would say it's a, it's a pretty systemic problem. I don't know that there's one reason why I know that for me, what I was feeling before I was a leader and before I had a team was that I just want to be able to do the work that I want to do the way that I want to do it. And the only way to get that is to become the boss. I was feeling frustrated with the lack of clarity of purpose. Or with the way that the leaders wanted me to achieve that purpose or how they wanted me to do it or where or when, or, there's all these things that I, you know, I went to school to learn this. I've got these skills that I want to employ out to serve the world. I want to be able to, you know, take time off, to go to my kid's soccer game or take the family on vacation or something like that. And I'm feeling frustrated because I'm in an environment where I'm feeling constrained by my team and my organization and my leadership, not where I'm thriving and feeling like they're actually part of deploying me to go use those gifts into the world.
[00:15:55] So out of that frustration I felt like the only way to solve that was to become a leader myself. Then I start to try to advance and work my way up into the authority structure of the organization. So then I'm a boss and the reason that I wanted to be a boss was to be able to do it however I wanted.
[00:16:16] It reminds me a lot of parents that say to their kids, like when their kid wants something, the parent says, no, but then there's this narrative that goes something like when you're an adult some day, when you're a parent some day you can do this differently. I feel like management works similarly.
[00:16:33] There's this whole concept where it's like all the employees, the individual contributors and the workers are, you know, kind of like not all of them, but some of them are frustrated with what it’s like. Other ones or other others are totally fine. So I definitely don't want to paint a picture that this is everybody, but it was me and it's a lot of people.
[00:16:50] And then they become the boss. And what they do is then they're the parent that's saying, I told you. So even though when they were the kid, they were so frustrated that their parents said, I told you so. There's not much incentive to become a healthy leader because I just got the bigger paycheck, I just got the reserved parking spot, I just got the corner office, I just got the administrative assistant. And now actually the reason that I wanted to do this is because I can then do it the way that I wanted to do it.
[00:17:19] So now I've made this really long list of things that I get to do. And I fill it up my week with the work that I really want to do. So I feel like it's full. Meanwhile, I've got eight direct reports that don't have a clear sense of purpose. They don't have time with their boss. They don't have time with their family the way that they want it.
[00:17:37] So now I'm recreating that same problem with them feeling frustrated. Now they're out there spending a bunch of their time looking for other jobs that they can be a boss. So there's just so many things that are broken in the process. The whole system of leadership, what actually needs to happen is that leaders need to look at it like this is a particular calling to lead in a certain way.
[00:17:59] And sports can often be a helpful analogy. And unfortunately, military can often be a helpful analogy because as these organizations get bigger, they know, and those things often work fairly well. At what they're trying to accomplish. They know that once you go up the ranks of leadership, you're no longer on the front line.
[00:18:16] You're no longer on the court or on the playing field, because now I'm only leading and we need to do everything that we can in every environment possible to create as much space for leaders to put leading, managing, and holding people accountable on their calendar first. And we say that's 90 minutes for a weekly team meeting per week and 30 minutes per person per week on the calendar. So if you have five direct reports, that's two and a half hours of one-on-one meetings and one and a half hours of team meetings. So now I've got four hours on the calendar to manage a team of five people, right? That's not that much, if you do it extremely well and you do it the same way every time you can manage a team of five in four hours per week.
[00:19:03] That gives you in theory. And we're obviously using round numbers here, but 36 hours to do all the other things that you want to do every week. So there's ways to make it work. But the big rocks that you put on your calendar first is the time with your team. And then you go down in your priority list and find the next priority.
[00:19:23] And then you start putting that in the calendar.
[00:19:24] Lauren Marie: I imagine having those weekly meetings on the calendar that are short 30 minutes sometimes may last a little longer, but on a consistent week they might not even last 30 minutes. If you know you're getting to talk to your manager and have access to them every week.
[00:19:41] Loren: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, one of the things that happens is you start out aiming at a 30 minute one-on-one and you can't finish the first one in 90 minutes and you go, oh my gosh, this is never going to work this takes forever. But if you stick with it and we recommend that you stick with it for eight weeks before you start changing things, people do get better at it.
[00:19:58] The other thing that happens is they stop emailing and texting each other in between meetings. The collaboration overload and the time suck that happens when people are trying to figure out how to communicate all the time in a myriad of ways, all of that gets put into those two meetings a week. So we collaborate as a group when we're all physically together once a week for 90 minutes. And then I get all the answers that I need about what I'm responsible for and I communicate how my priorities are going to my boss one-on-one, once a week, when all the communication happens in there, everybody opens up the rest of their calendar to do all these things that aren't communicating, because I've just made communication so efficient.
[00:20:35] Lauren Marie: That seems like it minimizes a lot of chaos and drama.
[00:20:39] Loren: Absolutely. A recent article that we shared on our website was about collaboration overload and how the amount of time before COVID that the average person was spending on email per week was almost 20 hours and it's gone up to like 23 hours a week or something like that.
[00:20:54] So it was just ridiculous. Right? If you think about it, I'm coming here to do a job and in order to do that job, I have to spend half of my allocated time to do the job towards communicating about doing the job. I mean, it's like, let's have a meeting to plan the meeting about the meeting that we're going to have with the meeting.
[00:21:08] I mean, it's just, it's ridiculous. It's not sustainable. And therefore we are in the middle of a Great Resignation.
[00:21:14] Lauren Marie: Thank you for taking us on that narrative. The importance of Team Purpose, it's all interwoven together.
[00:21:22] Today, we talked about the third of the 8 Dimensions of a Healthy Team, Team Purpose. Our goal was to define what we mean when we say it and have a conversation about how and why it impacts the health of your team.
Lauren Marie: It's important to remember that as with all learning, just having the information does not automatically lead to transformation. We can give you all of the analytics and methodologies, but team transformation will not happen without you incorporating new behaviors into your leadership practice.
Listening to a podcast without beginning to practice better management is a lot like learning about exercise without moving your body. Starting anything new will feel awkward and funny at times. This is normal and doesn't mean you should stop. Discomfort is a sign that it is working and that your brain is getting stronger. Stick with it.
Commit to trying our methods for eight weeks to six months and then observe and see what's next. See you next time on The Integrated Leader Podcast.