“Purpose” is the reason for which something is done, so “shared purpose” means a “common” reason for which something is done. When people strive to “win” by beating the other person, they may share the purpose of winning, but they are actually at “cross-purpose” because both cannot achieve their desired outcome. So how do you establish shared purpose?
1. Define the purpose of each person. Many times you and the other person already have the same or similar purpose in mind, but don’t know it. Intentionally and candidly talking about purpose should bring to light both differences and commonalities. For example, in a coaching relationship both parties need to desire the improvement of the person being coached and the feeling of appreciation for their contributions. Bringing this to light can lead to increased awareness and trust on both sides.
2. Determine where you have common purpose. Once you understand each other's purpose you can now determine what you share and what you don’t. Sometimes you may have both common- and cross-purpose, so you have to determine how you can capitalize on what you share and minimize what you don’t. My wife and I recently went on a vacation and both shared the purpose of enjoying each other's company, getting some rest and engaging in personal interests. Hers was touring gardens; mine was playing golf. We had a lot of time to pursue the first two commonalities and we found opportunities for each of us to individually pursue our own personal interests by setting times for her to tour a garden while I was playing golf.
3. Create common ground when necessary. Sometimes shared purpose is either not present or not very obvious, so you have to create it. This is where the term “creative” comes into play. Many times you can find a higher order purpose if you look for it and other times you can combine purposes into a shared purpose. One afternoon on our vacation I wanted to play golf and my wife wanted to visit a garden. Because we only had one car and the two facilities were too far apart, we had to find common ground. We both decided that we really wanted to do something together (common, higher order purpose) and that was more important than either golf or touring a garden. We looked around and found a golf course on our route that also was known for its natural beauty, so she rode with me in my golf cart and checked out the local flora while I chased around a little white ball that on more than one occasion ended up in the same flora she was observing.
Trust starts with knowing that you and the other person have the same purpose in mind and that both will be striving for the same end.