The purpose-performance connection: how to build high-performing teams
In the ever-evolving landscape of business, what sets apart the most innovative, efficient, and successful organisations from the rest? Is it innovation, research and development, market share, or branding and marketing? Or E all of the above?
While all of these elements and business functions offer a competitive edge, all of them are pretty tough to achieve without a high-performance organisational culture. Such a culture is not merely a buzzword; it is a strategic pillar that drives business performance, boosts employee morale, and fuels overall success.
In fact, research by McKinsey & Company has demonstrated that organisations with a laser focus on cultivating higher-performing cultures enjoy substantial benefits. These benefits include creating a threefold return to shareholders, achieving superior employee engagement and collaboration, elevating customer satisfaction, and reducing staff turnover.
A high-performing team is characterised by its exceptional efficiency, innovation, and ability to achieve outstanding results. Purpose acts as the North Star, aligning team members’ efforts and driving them to pursue a common goal. When a team collectively believes in its mission, every task and challenge becomes an opportunity for growth, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Purpose fosters a deep connection among team members, inspiring them to push boundaries, overcome obstacles, and consistently deliver exceptional performance.
So, how exactly do you build a high-performing and purpose-driven team within your organisation? It’s something we’ve focussed on heavily at Young Folks with the support of external experts in leadership, people and culture and HR.
In this article, we’ve tapped into the expertise of one of our much-loved external experts Ami Summers – director and lead coach at Craft Coaching and Development – who shares her insights and experience in building high-performing teams and the profound connection between purpose and performance.
Purpose is a competitive advantage
Exceptional company cultures leverage their organisation’s unique mission, vision and values to inspire their workforce and steadfastly deliver on their brand promise to customers.
Weaving purpose into company culture creates a magnetic force that attracts top talent, retains highly skilled professionals, increases engagement and productivity, enhances employee well-being and safety, fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion, and delivers the pinnacle of customer experience. It unites the team around a shared purpose and ensures everyone is pulling in the same direction, thus empowering your organisation to outperform the competition.
However, in company cultures where purpose is inconsistent or uninspiring, it can serve as a major roadblock to aligning employees and organisational culture. Research by Gallup in the USA has shown that only 2 in 10 employees feel connected to their organisation’s culture.
Mindset is the cornerstone of high-performance
A growth mindset, driven by a clear sense of purpose, empowers individuals and teams to embrace challenges as opportunities for learning and development. Purpose instils a compelling ‘why’ behind actions, shaping a mindset characterised by resilience, innovation, and unwavering determination. When purpose is the driving force, it transforms obstacles into stepping stones on the path to excellence, fostering a mindset that propels individuals and teams toward high performance, and setting the stage for exceptional achievement.
American psychologist and author Dr. Carol Dweck’s work around mindset has shaped the way Ami and the Craft Coaching team understand high performance, and how to unlock possibility versus probability in an individual.
Ami says “The differences between fixed and growth mindset can definitely be felt and seen in an organisational culture. Fixed mindset looks like safety thinking, a lack of belief that your effort will make a difference, believing that either you are naturally talented at a task or an area, rather than able to work on it. In contrast, when you have a team who are operating from a growth mindset, they believe they can always improve, put effort in to develop their skills, and always believe that they can apply themselves to achieve anything.”.
Self-actualisation: higher needs drive high performance
In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and motivation theory, self-actualisation represents the pinnacle of psychological growth, marking the point at which an individual’s full potential is achieved once fundamental physical and egoic requirements have been satisfied.
According to Ami, “the theory supports the idea that when our basic human needs are met, we are able to access a ‘high performing’ part of our brain that allows us to set high standards of excellence for ourselves, believe in the growth and development of ourselves and others, want to work to our full potential as human beings, and find greater meaning in the work.” Making self-actualisation an important factor in Ami and the Craft Coaching team’s work building high-performing teams.
Through her work with leaders and teams in a range of different organisations (including Young Folks), Ami has seen self-actualisation increasingly emphasised particularly through the pandemic and with it the Great Resignation where she observed people take pay cuts and sacrifice climbing the ladder for a stronger alignment with individual purpose – whether that be work flexibility, a sense of satisfaction at work and work/life balance.
Fast forward to now and Ami is still seeing this with clients’ businesses. She says “no matter how much money you throw at your team members, if they are missing this sense of deeper meaning and purpose in their work, they will look elsewhere.”
Hunger, hustle and high performance
According to Ami, a fundamental element that underpins high performance is the shared commitment and unwavering hunger for doing well. This profound desire to set ambitious goals and resolutely pursue them is not only a driving force for individual achievement but a cornerstone of organisational success as well. This hunger is not a burden that solely rests on the shoulders of business owners or leaders either – Ami notes that “the team has to feel this hunger too”.
As business owners and leaders navigate increasingly uncertain economic times, Ami predicts that hunger will emerge as a defining factor, setting exceptional teams and individuals apart from the rest. In contrast, those who lack this hunger are akin to team members in the engine room without the fuel to propel the organisation forward. Unfortunately, Ami warns that such individuals may find themselves at the forefront of organisational restructuring efforts, as leaders increasingly prioritise and value this essential quality.
However, it’s vital to draw a clear distinction between hunger and hustle to avoid the pitfalls of burnout. While both concepts are fuel for high performance, Ami emphasises that hustle relies on adrenaline and can lead to exhaustion. Conversely, true hunger emanates from a place of deep commitment, unwavering clarity of purpose, and a genuine care for the journey and the team. This not only sustains high performance but also fosters a healthier and more enduring path to success.
By nurturing this type of hunger within your team, business owners and leaders can unlock their full potential, aligning them with a shared purpose and setting the stage for remarkable achievements.
Strategies for developing a high-performing team culture
High-performing cultures don’t emerge by chance; they are carefully cultivated by connecting the team with a shared purpose and simultaneously addressing the five common dysfunctions of teams that can simmer beneath the surface. And according to Ami, no team is immune from challenges or setbacks. A simple strategy for building high-performing teams is to focus on identifying and addressing these dysfunctions. Here’s what Ami recommends (and trust us, after working with Ami we can hand-on-heart say these tips are only scratching the surface).
1. Shift from the absence of trust to building trust
To build trust within your team, establish structured opportunities for open, honest one-on-one meetings where thoughts, ideas, and feelings are shared. As a leader, evaluate your availability, visibility, and the comfort level of your team to communicate with you. Encourage autonomy, independent thinking, and personal accountability. Foster conversations that extend beyond task-related matters by asking powerful questions like, “How can I help you be your best?” or “What’s your challenge or dilemma?”
2. Move from fear of conflict to the confidence to resolve conflict
Create self-awareness through learning experiences and workshops. Develop a ‘constructive culture’ that equips team members with strategies to manage emotions and stay grounded during stressful moments. Make meetings psychologically safe by allowing everyone to share expectations and opinions without immediate responses. Honour each contribution by writing suggestions on post-it notes, and collectively decide the way forward.
3. Transition from lack of commitment to dedication and engagement
Engage your team by transparently communicating the business strategy and vision. Make these central themes in meetings and establish regular one-on-one discussions to align individual career goals with current work. Balance remote and in-person work to enhance engagement. Clarify your business values and encourage your team to share their own values with the group.
4. Instil a sense of ownership instead of avoiding accountability
Shift conversations from blame to responsibility by establishing Accountability Conversations as a routine part of work processes. These check-ins keep expectations, work standards, and desired outcomes fresh in the team’s minds, promoting real-time issue resolution and progress tracking. Building accountability into your day-to-day activities fosters constructive exploration of what works and what doesn’t within the team.
5. Shift to self-actualising from inattention to results
Create an environment where team members are deeply engaged with results. Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and individual contributions to these indicators. Encourage regular, measurable goal-setting, including both role-related and career-oriented objectives. Ask team members about their priorities and how you can support them. Help individuals connect their goals to the broader business objectives. Foster an achievement style that involves setting clear, strategic goals while challenging team members to stretch their abilities.
Putting the purpose-performance connection into action
The pursuit of high performance is not a mere aspiration but an imperative for success. We have explored the profound connection between purpose and performance in building exceptional teams along with the characteristics of high-performing teams and strategies to develop them. The path to success begins with understanding the purpose-performance connection and actively nurturing it within your team. In a world where purpose-driven organisations thrive, it’s time to harness the power of purpose and embark on the journey towards high performance, excellence, and enduring success.