That sucking sound you hear is that of hearts and souls being drained of life as employees arrive to work. It’s been this way for sometime: arrive to work, jump on the hamster wheel and run from one life taking meeting to another. Absent in this drab picture is optimism, joy, purpose, exhilaration. Somewhere in time we’ve accepted that work is something we have to do, not something we get to do.
Think about it. The distinction is important. Imagine walking into work thinking you get to work for your company, or for yourself. Get to? Yes.
- Get to do work that leads you to believe good things are possible – optimism
- Get to do work that delights other people – joy
- Get to do work that holds greater meaning – purpose
- Get to do work that goes by so fast that you leave work feeling fulfilled – exhilaration
Optimism, joy, purpose and exhilaration are key inputs into doing work that matters. Work that matters is possible when a team, even an organization, shares the experience of it. Work that matters is possible when you can stand alone knowing why your work is important even when you face skeptics, doubters or even haters. Work that matters is a calling. It’s practical. It’s possible.
Work that matters is a calling. It’s practical. It’s possible.
Doing work that matters can be found in the act of serving food. It can be found in pro-bono work. It can be found in charity work. It can be found in any type of work anywhere. It is, however, a choice for each of us to make. Are you willing to find why you get to do the work you do? I don’t care if it’s serving hamburgers, volunteering at your church, answering calls in the call center, or as a trial lawyer. The choice is yours.
Managers, however, have a critical role to play in shaping the context in which work that matters can flourish. The following seven cultural elements to doing work that matters takes purposeful leadership to let work that matters emerge, grow and become how things get done.
Celebrate human beings not resources, assets or human capital
Know the story of each person who works for you. Know the whole employee – personally and professionally.
Positively exploit our need to do work that is meaningful
Help employees know and continually uncover why their work matters and how it contributes to the bigger context.
Celebrate human beings not resources, assets or human capital.
Create opportunities to connect with people to share ideas, to build relationships
Connect ideas that come from your team to those who can help make them become reality, or at minimum explored for their possible benefits.
Reinforce a possibility mindset – abundance
Bolder action can be taken when we look at our circumstances through a lens of what is available and possible. The opposite, a deficit mindset, looks for reasons why something cannot be done and limits action. In the workplace, think of visioning work or brainstorming. These actions require us to consider abundance, what’s possible.
Short feedback loops grounded in respect and service
Let people know how they are doing – good or bad. Share it with respect and with the attitude of service in a timely manner. Make a personal commitment to share feedback within 24-48 hours.
We owe it to customers, ourselves, and to the organization to help more employees understand that they get to do work that matters.
Make room for accidents; fail fast and move forward
Grounded in the abundance mentality is the understanding that accidents,failures are important to progress. Teach people that it is okay to fail. Surface them. Learn from them. Move forward – quickly.
Encourage freedom in how, where, and when work gets done
Leverage the benefits of smart phones, tablets, the cloud and your local coffee shop. Rearrange your workspace to promote connectivity amongst employees. Let people determine how they can best work and get the best work done. We have got to learn that a white knuckled grip on how, where and when work gets done is a fading memory along with command-and-control leadership.
The seven cultural elements are key inputs into letting joy, optimism, purpose and exhilaration emerge to help organizations achieve the results they need to thrive in business. We owe it to customers, ourselves, and to the organization to help more employees understand that they get to do work that matters.
For a deeper look into what is necessary to do work that matters, listen to these interviews on Shawn’s podcast, Work That Matters.
About the Author
Shawn Murphy is the owner and principal consultant at Achieved Strategies. With over 20 years working to help people create change and contribute their best, Shawn has grown deeply passionate about inspiring, educating, and sharing what he has learned to help leaders bring the best out in their people.