As the story goes, back in 1962, President John F. Kennedy visited NASA for the first time. While he was touring the facility, he met a janitor who was sweeping with a broom. The President asked the janitor what he did for NASA, and the janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
This janitor understood how his work was as essential to the overall purpose of NASA as those who worked in mission control, or the astronauts who would eventually take that walk on the moon. Whether anecdotal or not, this story describes well the importance of finding purpose in our work.
What is Purpose
Purpose is when we know WHY our job exists, and understand HOW our efforts are a part of something bigger than ourselves … that we, personally, are needed to make the world a better place for someone else. Is it possible that discovering our purpose in our work can be more important or powerful than say, competitive pay, opportunities for professional advancement, or work/life integration? There are certainly cases to be made for all of these and more.
But here’s what we do know for sure – when people understand their job’s broader purpose, they are more highly engaged, happier, and more creative. All these lead to lower turnover of talent, higher productivity, and improved business results. Having purpose nourishes the sense of well-being for individuals and the organization, and ultimately for customers.
Supporting Your Core Leaders
Clearly articulating and operating in a way that leads to understanding and witnessing the unified purpose means that everyone in the organization is essential to accomplishing a single higher purpose. Every member of the team knows they are critical to the team, and that their work matters.
We can identify with this concept so clearly today with the designation of “essential workers.” Healthcare teams (doctors, nurses, and all support staff), are unified in the greater purpose of health and saving lives. We see this with others also – grocery store workers keeping shelves stocked and food accessible to the masses, and manufacturing employees going to their worksite every day to make sure that we have the products we need in our homes; and there are so many more examples.
I recently coached core leaders for one organization whose roles were leading call centers, managing logistics, and running operations. Their unified purpose was ultimately discovered to be how they were positively impacting the lives of those who bought their services and products, and depended upon them for support when things did not go well. These leaders focused on helping every person on their teams to understand how what they did mattered in support of their purpose.
Here’s what your company can do:
- Articulate and keep talking about your company’s greater purpose. Start with your company’s vision and mission and values. Make sure everyone in the organization knows about them, and that your core leaders are coached to model them.
- Equip your leaders to have effective one-on-one conversations with all of your employees. Find out what motivates and drives team members, what their strengths are, and talk about how those link to your company’s purpose and goals.
- Create a work environment – processes, practices, services — focused on well-being (career, social, financial, physical, and community).
- Provide feedback – make sure your employees know when they are doing a good job for the company and for your customers. Reinforce the tie back to a unified purpose.
Whether mission control, the astronaut, or the janitor – there is incredible power in having everyone in the organization understanding and making their connection to the greater purpose.
What is the unifying purpose of your workplace and how do your core leaders help their teams?
To talk more about this, connect with us!