Recently I was drafting a proposal with a colleague for a potential intercultural communication program we would conduct together. We were on the phone doing the brainstorming, and rather than getting to the outline and content right away, my colleague said, “Let’s start with the why. Why do we want to do this?”
The results were stunning. The more we talked about the why, the more excited we became, listing reason after reason why the program made sense for us: The chance to work together, to try out new things, to give back, to do something local, to have fun, to work with an industry relatively unfamiliar to us, etc.
Once the why was in place, the rest flowed like water. We moved onto the what, making bullet points of all that we wanted to cover in our session.
In global business today, the speed of information and the busyness of people’s schedules have threatened to squash the sense of purpose that is so critical to high performance. I am no exception to this pattern. I go through phases where the transactional nature of my business takes over, where my days become about managing the calendar and completing the paperwork. These tasks are necessary to the business function, but as the 11th anniversary of Highroad Global Services approaches I had to take a step back and remind myself why I’m here in the first place.
I started with a blank piece of paper. In the brainstorming fashion, I wrote down my life purpose and how that tied to the company. I wrote down random words that came to me about what Highroad is meant to contribute to the world. Out of that exercise, I chose three themes.
The purpose of Highroad Global Services is to generate empathy, unite teams, and enrich lives.
Suddenly, I felt more inspired to take on the day. I generated a list of action items that went along with these themes and followed through on at least two of them right away.
Just like individuals, global teams can lose their sense of purpose as well. We feel the pressure of time zone differences, language barriers, cultural differences, and deliverables.
What would it be like to step back and revisit the purpose of the team? How do we know that everyone is aligned on that purpose? If we have drifted, what would it take to get back? Besides the team purpose, what is my personal purpose within the team?
New teams in the forming stage often excel at understanding their common objectives, but over time that compass may be harder and harder to calibrate. We can remind ourselves to be intentional, even blocking out time on the calendar to reassess the why.
When I traveled solo around the world in my twenties, I remember thinking that I didn’t want all of the sights to go by in a blur. I wanted to be clear on my purpose for traveling, to study different ways of life and have my naiveté shaken up by the depth and details of culture. We may not always have clarity about our purpose, but the act of reflecting on it brings its own reward.
I look forward to hearing about your purpose, whether that is on a project, a team, or in life!