3 Surprisingly Simple Steps to Make Work More Meaningful
I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek and his book Start With Why. Every now and then, I pick it back up and remember how connecting my work with my values results in output that is more rewarding, more productive and provides real joy.
Some years ago, our office ran a campaign called “This is why…”. We asked our teammates to send us a picture that answered the question: “Why do you do what you do?” Our plan was to select a picture a month and hang them in the office so we could see what drove our people to success. Like a lot of office initiatives, it was a slow start. Our “Why” can often be tucked deep inside. Finding it can be tough enough; sharing it with others is a big leap of faith.
Thankfully, our leadership team jumped in to forge the path. Then, slowly but surely, others felt more comfortable, and some pretty cool photos started showing up in the inbox. Most of the pictures were of happy, healthy, active families and individuals doing the things they loved most: hiking, traveling, playing music, or hanging with their favorite pet. I was not only touched by what I saw, I was moved.
Each “Why” photo was a gift. It was a window into individual value systems that drive personal performance. It was a symbol of trust. Altogether, they were a reminder to me that, while business leaders are responsible for product quality and profitability, they are first and foremost responsible to—and for—people. Experience shows that if we put people first, business will be healthy. As Simon Sinek says, “Happy employees ensure happy customers. And happy customers ensure happy shareholders—in that order.”
So how does focusing on Why make the work we do more meaningful? It has three levels:
1. The Individual Why
Everybody has something that drives them. Maybe it’s a spirit of competition. Maybe it’s a search for a life of adventure, a mission to give back, or a quest to discover their passion. Maybe it’s to be a good role model and provider for their kids. When people know their Why, they do their best work because it’s in service of that ultimate goal. In addition, being secure in their fundamental motivation gives an individual the confidence to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
2. The Team Why
Take a moment to think of every team movie you’ve ever seen. Remember the Titans. Stand and Deliver. The Dirty Dozen. Pitch Perfect. There's a formula: a bunch of ragtag individuals with diverse life experiences end up, seemingly randomly, in the same place at the same time. They butt heads and clash and try to do things their own way, until something clicks—and they become a team, much stronger as a unit than they could have imagined independently. How? First, there’s usually some self-discovery by each person, as they discover their motivations and goals (sound familiar?). That done, the team is able to rally around a common Why. Only when a team has a clearly identified mission and a shared purpose can they make meaningful accomplishments.
3. The Organizational Why
The first thing every company sets in stone when opening its doors is its mission. Without an objective and a commitment to fulfill that vision, growth is haphazard at best. In order to achieve focused results, business leaders need buy-in from everyone who works there. Work that feels aimless and impersonal causes discord at all levels. Clearly communicating the Why of the business is vital to creating an environment of cohesiveness, where everyone feels like they are contributing to something important. Even more important is ensuring that employees know how you're going to achieve that Why together. That visibility comes through transparency of leadership (which builds trust), office initiatives and events (which build community), and following through on promises and fulfilling organizational goals (which build confidence and conviction).
The bottom line: Rule #1 of happiness in the workplace (or anywhere else)...is personal accountability. While it's important for business leaders to keep the Why of others in mind, it is equally important to the business that each and every person finds and fulfills their own Why. That’s winning at every level. So take action today:
1. Find your Why. Take the time to think about what makes you go. Consider what's important to you, what your ultimate priority is, and how everything you do lends itself to that end.
2. Adjust your work / life to maximize your Why. Align your drivers with your outcomes. Audit your activities and behaviors and curate them to fulfill your personal, team, and organizational Whys.
3. Share your Why. When people know your purpose and goals, they are likely to join and support you.
What’s your Why? How are you nurturing the Whys of your company and team?
Let’s chat: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick Nelson is a Partner at TA Group and CEO of Direct Technology. He and other leaders are sharing their experiences each week for 12 weeks in the Growth Never Stops series.
About the Series
Growth and learning have been at the core of TA Group's success. Academic learning certainly, but more importantly the kind of learning that comes from trial and error, from bumps and bruises. Otherwise known as experience. We’d like to share that experience with you!
Each week in Q1, we'll share a high-level topic related to personal or professional growth, leadership or management. We’ll share the stories and the steps that lead to the learning and we’ll ask you to share with us. Let’s grow together in 2018.
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