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How to create an inspired workforce: Articulate

Yesterday I posted the first blog in this series. Over the next several weeks, I will share additional posts to support the efforts of leaders, managers, and supervisors to create an inspired workforce.

In summary, the first step is to discover for yourself, and then reveal to all team members, the total job role. This includes, in addition to acquiring adequate job knowledge and sufficient job skills, reflecting job purpose—a team member’s single highest priority at work.

You won’t need to spend much time on job knowledge and job skills. These are familiar to managers and hourly-paid staff. These job functions are spelled out in the job description for each position. But job purpose—the single highest priority of the job role? This is largely unknown by managers and frontline staff alike. Sure, people at all levels of the organization have an opinion about what the single highest priority is (or should be), but I’ve found there’s little agreement when I pose the question individually to these workers.

It’s the same with the company’s mission, vision, or purpose statement and core values. Most team members, regardless of job title, are unaware of these corporate ideals. At one event, I asked 222 senior managers from a sophisticated billion-dollar technology company to write the one-sentence corporate mission statement on an index card. Later, after reviewing the cards, many of which were blank, I found four with the correct answer.

It’s difficult for these managers to lead their teams in a direction that they’re unable to articulate themselves. When True North is unknown, misunderstood, or up for debate, you could end up anywhere.

Here’s the next step to create an inspired workforce: 2. Articulate organizational purpose, core values, and the team’s aspirational goal.

It’s true that, in larger, sophisticated organizations much of the work has already been done and exists in the form of a corporate mission, vision, or purpose statement and a polished set of core values. Even so, as illustrated by the tech company above, this doesn’t mean that people are aware of these corporate ideals or that they factor into the daily experiences of employees and customers. There’s also no guarantee that an existing organizational purpose has been linked to daily work activities, a set of core values has been interpreted by leadership and applied to the real world of work, or that an aspirational goal (apart from mission, vision, or purpose) has been considered.

Here are the Four Questions that, when answered, will help to establish direction, priorities, standards, and expectations (i.e., True North) for you and your team:

  1. What is my purpose at work?
  2. What values guide my actions and behaviors at work?
  3. What purposeful actions and behaviors do I exhibit at work?
  4. What is my team’s aspirational goal?

Answering these questions for yourself will connect you to your purpose at work and prepare you to confidently reveal these insights to others, connect them to daily work activities and decision-making, and leverage them to inspire greater employee engagement.

In the next blog post in the series, we’ll examine the distinction between a sweeping organizational purpose that may or may not apply to individual job roles (Kroger’s purpose, To feed the human spirit, comes to mind…) and job purpose that is specific to a given job role. I hope you’ll be back for that post. In the meantime, feel free to drop questions or share feedback in the comments.

Image credit: Scott Preator

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