Defining Your Purpose

Jul 27, 2010
4 Min Read

On my first post on the Team Leadership blog, I wrote that purpose is one of the signs that your team is effective. Whether you are a leader of a company, a function, a department, a team, a family, or simply leading yourself, you are more effective when you have a sense of purpose. Purpose is having a reason for doing or existing. This can be a sense of where the company is headed, and understanding of why your team exists, knowing why the project is important, and connecting how each task contributes to the big picture.

A clear purpose communicates the intentions behind the daily to-dos and focuses in on why you are in business. It also provides inspiration and direction for smaller goals. Besides creating a crystal-clear awareness in your own mind about where you are headed, defining your purpose can make it easier to communicate goals, aspirations, value propositions, and priorities to others. When your purpose is ambiguous or undefined, you may find it difficult to plan for the future, make decisions, and put goals into action.

Getting Started

To gain clarity on what your purpose might be, start by writing out 10 words that come to mind when thinking about your team or business. Then to refine that and give it context, also write out the answers to the following questions (as relevant):

  • Why was the company founded?
  • What needs does the business address?
  • Why does this team exist?
  • Who does the work affect and how?
  • Where will we be in ten years?
  • What principles/values guide work?
  • What am I most passionate about?

This works best if you actually write something down, and if you don’t hold back. Write without censoring – this can also be done as a brainstorm session if you want to involve the entire team. After you have written something down, you can then mix and match those thoughts to create a mission statement. The mission statement is basically your purpose, written in concrete words. Mission statements explain what the company or team does.


I think the best mission statements are simple. Here are four examples of such mission statements:

  • CVS Pharmacy: We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use.
  • Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
  • Google: To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • Wal-Mart: To help people save money so they can live better.
  • Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

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