Purpose and Values

26 Sep 2018



Embedding a sense of purpose and shared values in your team will give it the motivational boost it needs to gain a competitive edge.

Words: Richard Nugent

Purpose, values, ethos... these terms tend to be used almost interchangeably when talking about great leadership and high performance teams, and they articulate who are we, what we are here for and why that matters.

Author Simon Sinek argues that while we all know what we do and how we do it, few of us spend enough time considering why we do it. What’s more, that core understanding is essential if we’re to perform at our best every day. While financial security may be the end result of doing a job, it is rarely the reason, or at least the sole reason, for doing it day to day.

As a leader, you can encourage everyone to consider their personal why factor, whether that is wanting to be inspired and stretched, to feel safe and comfortable in their work environment or to go home each day knowing that they’ve made a difference to someone or something.

Our values are essentially the things that are most important to us and that influence our purpose, decisions and how we operate. In any organisation, values are a cultural compass, defining how it feels to be part of the group and how we should behave towards each other.


Once you’ve created a shared purpose and values and spent time with your team working through what they mean, it can help to provide visual reminders or cues around the department. This isn’t, however, enough; you’ll also need a plan of how to bring them to life and ensure that everything that the team does links back to them.

Perhaps even more important is to keep shared values at the heart of team communication. One way to do this is to use values as the framework or backdrop for the team rules or code of conduct. By creating a team agreement that is linked to the values, you will increase significantly the likelihood of those rules being adhered to.

Given that values are the cultural compass of an organisation, any actions or behaviours that clash with them must not be tolerated. Conversely, employees should be rewarded for demonstrating purpose-led behaviours and living the team’s values.

Remember that values are a clear statement of how you operate in your organisation and how you should be with each other; they define what is and isn’t culturally acceptable. Perhaps what is most important of all, therefore, is that you lead by example. If you can go to work every day clear on why you are there, what you believe in and how your values connect with the organisation, then your team will follow your lead.