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Finding Purpose in Work

On occasion, managers ask me how to motivate employees who seem to be disengaged and simply going through the motions at work. The way I approach this is by being intentional about connecting employees’ daily job responsibilities to an enduring organizational purpose. This is not easy. It requires the organization to do the yeoman work of identifying values and detecting its purpose.

When organizations complete this work and enlighten employees as to WHY they do WHAT they do, HOW they do it, at work, they will have given them – not simply a set of repetitive tasks to work on – but a meaningful purpose to work toward.

As an example, I know of a pastor who was a passenger on a flight that lost cabin pressure and began a rapid descent as the oxygen masks were deployed. It was an unnerving experience but the pilots were able to re-stabilize cabin pressure and deliver everyone safely to their destination.

Taking note of the name of the company that manufactured the oxygen masks, the pastor later sent a heartfelt thank you note to an executive at the company. The executive was so touched by the note that he invited the pastor to share his experience directly with his employees at an all-staff meeting. He did and, as you might imagine, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Afterward, in the days and weeks following the pastor’s testimonial, the men and women approached their work differently. Many recognized, perhaps for the first time, WHY they did WHAT they did, HOW they did it, at work.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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