Winning at Work: Clarifying Your Team’s Purpose

by | Jan 17, 2024

Darcy Luoma is one of America’s most highly credentialed coaches. She’s worked in 48 industries, with more than 500 organizations, and has impacted tens of thousands of leaders and employees.


Watching the NFL playoff games this weekend, there was no question about what the teams were trying to accomplish.

Their purpose? Win the game. That’s it. Win. The. Game. There’s no best-of-seven in the NFL. It’s win or go home.

If only we had that kind of clarity in our workplaces. (Well, maybe not the win-or-go-home part!)

What are we doing here?

When we do retreats with teams, one of the questions we ask all participants individually before the event is, What’s the primary purpose of this team?

It sounds like it should be an easy question. But with most teams, the answers vary wildly. Here’s an example of responses from a recent set of team members to the question of the team’s primary purpose:

  • Set the strategic direction for the organization
  • Make decisions about the day-to-day operations
  • Share information about what’s happening in our departments
  • Collaborate to solve problems
  • Ensure we’re profitable

And yes. These were all responses from members of the same team.

Defining a purpose sets the direction

Amid daily tasks and responsibilities, team members can easily get bogged down in the details and lose sight of their larger objectives. When teams are so focused on the problem of the day or dealing with the current shiny object in front of them, they aren’t talking about the larger goal. What does it mean for our team to win the game? If everyone is working towards a different end zone, then team members aren’t working together. That’s when signals are crossed, balls are dropped, Monday morning quarterbacking occurs… all the metaphors apply here!

To ensure everyone is moving in the same direction, having conversations to align efforts and achieve the Balance necessary to foster a cohesive and productive environment is essential.

Also, it’s important to note that a team’s purpose is different from the broader organizational mission; it encapsulates what the team is specifically striving to achieve. The team’s purpose should support the organization and be unique to the team. Your team’s purpose is likely different from other teams in the organization, even if all the teams are working towards that same larger mission.

Here’s a core workout for your team

Pause: At the start of your next team meeting, hit the Pause button.

Think: Ask everyone, “What’s the primary purpose of this team?”
Have everyone write their answer on a notecard to avoid groupthink!
Go around the room and have each person share their response.
How similar or different are the responses? Create space for everyone’s perspective.

Act: Discuss how to get aligned so everyone is clear on the team’s primary purpose.

Your team’s primary purpose might never be as straightforward as it is for playoff football teams, but by having the conversations, you can at least agree on the end zone!

2 minute quiz