The Unifying Power of Shared Purpose: Lessons from Microsoft Middle East and Africa

It never ceases to amaze me about the power that a shared goal has to unify a diverse set of people. I was reminded of this most recently on a business trip to Jordan this past November. Assembled in the ballroom of a Dead Sea Resort were over 70 senior managers from Microsoft Corporation representing nearly 20 different countries from throughout the Middle East and Africa. There they were, people whose national, religious and racial differences held the potential for deep divide. Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Turks, Saudis name just a few in this melting pot. However, divided they were not. On the contrary, the alignment and positivity in that gathering was palpable. All were working toward one common cause— the betterment of their organization.

My experience in Jordan served to once again reinforce for me a core tenet of how to effectively develop results-driven and sustainable business relationships (or for that matter, relationships in any context). Over the span of a 20-year career facilitating work groups and teams, one of the most frequent areas of breakdown that I continue to encounter is the development of individual fiefdoms among different functional areas and stakeholders. This state of affairs often results in siloed behavior that manifests in both overt and unconscious turf battles that sabotage results.

Having overcome centuries-old societal conflicts for the sake of their company’s success, the Microsoft managers adeptly demonstrated that commitment to a superordinate goal has the capacity to transcend any individual agendas. The simple-to-follow yet powerful lessons for team leaders, team members and third-party team facilitators/coaches: 1) make sure that the people with whom you are working have articulated a shared purpose, and 2) be vigilant in continuing to remind these stakeholders of their shared purpose.

Legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi summed this up beautifully when he said: “Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Thanks for listening!

Paul

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One Response to “The Unifying Power of Shared Purpose: Lessons from Microsoft Middle East and Africa”

  1. Michael Lisagor Says:

    Excellent example of the power of many in body – one in mind. And, as you point out – the real challenge is gaining the commitment of (and reminding them when they stray) senior leadership to follow-through, to establish metrics that recognize/reward non-silo behaviors and to keep the organization focused on the shared objective.
    Cheers!

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