In our work with executives of some of the best-run teams, one of the key difficulties they face is in gaining authentic alignment toward a shared purpose. In a pharmaceutical or biotech organization, it can be generally assumed (or at least hoped) that the team will be connected to this purpose simply because patients are waiting. For an aerospace company, it could be assumed that their shared commitment to safer travel is sufficient. Often it is found that this is not the case.

Why not?

There can be many reasons for this. It could be that there is something from the past that remains unresolved or incomplete and that continues to act as a distraction to their vision. Even if an incompletion is small or appears insignificant, it can be enough to derail alignment. A marathon runner may have only a tiny stone in their shoe but that is enough to have their attention move from the finish line on the horizon to focus on their feet and on “what’s wrong” right now – and only on what’s wrong.

Alignment towards a vision can also be derailed from a lack of inspiration. What displaces inspiration these days is quite often simply having to deal with the volume of work and meetings there is to handle. This workload has not ceased with work-from-home, giving back almost two hours that would have been spent commuting. In many cases, the workload in working remotely has increased. It is difficult to be present to purpose when you are constantly looking at emails piling up in your inbox.

However, there are ways of dealing with these factors that inhibit teams from being present to purpose. Much of it is in recognizing the types of conversations that need to happen in order to create enough room to get a glimpse of why we do our jobs. A good leader, a vibrant culture, and the right tools and practices for having these conversations can clear the way for teams to be present again to the why of their work rather than having it be routine, rote, and just another day on the job.

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