A sense of purpose is essential at the organizational, individual and cultural levels. Studies repeatedly show that organizations with clear purpose produce better bottom line results, and have better retention and recruiting capability than those with anemic or no purpose. Individuals are healthier, more satisfied, more productive, less stressed, live longer when they have purpose.
People want to take pride in doing what they do, no matter how seemingly unimportant or menial. What is it that makes a person feel good about doing a good job? Something bigger drives everyone beyond their paycheck whether or not they openly admit it. Leaders need to find and understand those drivers, and leverage the knowledge.
Whether or not we are aware of it, we all crave having a sense of profound meaning in our lives. It’s a deep-down part of the human condition. Some of us actively search for meaning, some don’t know what we’re missing. If the latter, chances are we feel that something big is missing. We just don’t know what it could possibly be.
I’ve been lucky. My career has been with top tier organizations in purposeful industries. Or, is it my intrinsic need to look for the greater meaning in what I do that leads me to recognize the sizzle in what I do, even if it’s producing washing machines or farm tires?
I don’t just build washing machines. I’m part of the greatest dependability heritage in the industry and we make life incredibly easier for homemakers worldwide.
I don’t just build farm tires. I help feed the world more efficiently.
I’m not just a teacher. I help shape young minds and lives, and the course of the future.
I’m not just a street sweeper. I make our community a more pleasant place for families to live.
I don’t just build wind turbine blades. I reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. I ensure that humanity has a more promising future, especially my grandchildren.
Those are all from my experience, except I’ve never been a street sweeper. It made the list as it is a classic example of an alleged “low meaning” job. There is a bigger purpose behind everything. My current career, the last one on the list, has all kinds of built-in sizzle. I really do feel like a crusader saving the world for my grandchildren. And I especially connected to the higher purpose of teaching, as most teachers do. I’ve never heard a calling more clearly than that one. If society placed a higher value on the teachers’ role and rewarded it accordingly I’d still be teaching.
So to me, purpose is wildly important. Once you establish meaningful purpose, the rest is mechanics and execution. Get purpose right, and you’ve got it made.