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Cultivate Shared Purpose For Olympic-Level Team Performance

Have you ever seen an Olympic rowing team in action? Every team member works together, their actions are smooth, focused, and shooting them like an arrow in the direction of their shared goal - the finish line.

Now, think of the last time you had a team meeting around a big, contentious project.

The dynamic was a little different, wasn’t it?

When you’re leading a team, it can feel less like “smooth sailing over the water” and more “everyone rowing in different directions.” And when everyone is rowing in different directions, it’s impossible to move forward.

The difference between focused, coordinated Olympic effort and a rowdy, team-meeting free-for-all is in one important thing: a sense of shared purpose.

Shared Purpose for Winning Teams

In the Olympics, every member of that rowing team has a single goal - to reach the finish line first, as a group. The success of the individual depends on the success of the team. No rower is going to get on the podium by themselves. It’s all or none.

If you want Olympic-level performance and results from your team, you need to make them feel as strong a shared purpose as that rowing team. That includes:

  • Shared tools that will be used to achieve the purpose

  • A shared language to describe the goal and the process to achieve it

  • Shared values that emphasize the importance of the goal

  • A sense of individual ownership and contribution.

One way that values and shared language can be identified and developed is through games. Think of the last time you played dodgeball - your team learned quickly what words to use that meant “duck!” You all knew what the goal was and that every person’s contribution mattered in the effort to be the winning team.

While you probably can’t get your team on a dodgeball court, playing less rowdy games together is a great way to practice having a shared purpose in a low-stakes, fun environment. And the camaraderie, shared experience of working together towards a common goal, and shared language that is developed during the game will carry over into the work environment.

Shared Purpose: Going Forward

Olympic-level teams are not developed overnight, and it can take time before your particular boat stops rowing in all directions and begins to see the movement forward that having a shared purpose brings.

But once that purpose is achieved and you all start working together?

You’ll think your “boat” can fly.

Interested in how you can cultivate a shared purpose for your team? Join the Barometer XP workshop “Games That Foster A Shared Sense of Purpose” on April 18th. Click here to reserve your spot.


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