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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Apr 24, 2024

Managers manage.  That means they make sure everything runs on time, to cost and to quality.  The leader does all of that, plus some additional important things. These include setting the strategic direction for the team and building the people’s capabilities.  Part of the leader’s role is to unite everyone behind the direction they are setting for the team.  There can be a lot of detail at the micro level about how to make the strategy a reality. One key component which needs to be set at the start is to re-clarify the purpose of the team.  You would think that was pretty obvious. However, if the leader doesn’t work on defining it, there could be 10 people in the team and eleven different purposes.

Here is a simple six-step guide to setting the purpose.

1.         What is meaningful about what your team does, from the perspective of the organisation as a whole (such as in relation to the stated purpose and vision)?

The team operates within the framework of the firm, but the leader must break that down to the team level and create a local version which matches the team’s reality in the field.  How does your team fit into the big picture?  Which colleagues from other departments are key partners and where is the coordination most required? There is often a firm wide Vision Statement which can be a good starting point and the task is to take that and create your own local version for the team.

2.        What is meaningful about what your team does from the perspective of your clients? 

We know what we sell, but sometimes we forget what the client is buying.  They are not always the same things. For example, we might think we are selling leadership training, but what the client is buying might be succession planning or greater productivity.  It is always important that every person in the team has a clear understanding of the client's needs.

Jan Carlzon’s book “Moment of Truth” was an excellent guide to the importance of making sure the entire series of contact points with the client were aligned and operating at the same quality levels.  An example would be the person who answers the phone is pleasant and professional, but the person the client is then transferred to is rude or grumpy. The firm brand went from heavenly clouds to depths of hell in one second.

3.        How should your team members behave as they are delivering what matters?

This comes back to what are the team and organisational values?  The leader will always have a wide spread of values scattered across their team and their job is to unite everyone behind the core values of the team.  The value set defines how everyone thinks about the clients and that, in turn, defines how they interact with the clients.  There is also the issue of how the team members interact with each other? Is there a strong level of mutual respect or we are in a pit of vipers with corporate politics run amok?

 4.        What are the expected results for the team and what are we doing when we are acting according to our purpose?

We are establishing KPI, goals, targets etc., to make the outputs needed clear to everyone.  Does each individual have a target or are there team based goals?  In the latter case, do people within the team understand their role in delivering the team result?

5.        What actions do you, as the leader, need to do to help fulfill the purpose?

Taking care of the logistics, resources, permissions, interdepartmental cooperation are common leader roles.  There is also the key role of coach to the team members to bolster their motivation and skills.  Often though, as busy, busy leaders, we transition from coach to mad pirate captain barking out orders and making people walk the plank if they don’t perform.  We set the tone for the team and we set the role model of how we are going to operate in this team. 

6.        Who do you need to be as a leader to fulfill the purpose (characteristics/ qualities?

We should never forget that every single member of our team is a ninja level “boss watcher” and they are constantly scanning us for any signs of crumbling between what we say and what we do.  We set the pace and the quality levels for the team.  That means we have to be lifetime learners, very well organised and totally professional in our work.  It also means we have to be calm in the midst of the raging storms which hit our team from time to time and be the rock around which everyone can shelter.

Use these six prompts to create the purpose for your team, either for them or with them.  I would recommend “with them”, because the team who designs the purpose together has the best levels of ownership of the outcomes and is more likely to execute well on what they have produced.