The other day I was meeting Rachel, the Human Resource Manager at one of our clients, and discussing the importance of individuals finding their purpose in their work every day. She went on to say, “Life is too short not to do meaningful work”. I thought wow – she is so right. We all spend at least forty hours a week working, so shouldn’t those hours be spent doing something meaningful in some way?
I realize not every moment of every day at work may be meaningful – I know there are aspects of my role that I’d rather not have to do but are necessary to achieve the outcomes required. But the majority of our time at work should have some relevance. I think people often translate this as having to do charity or non-profit work, but I have a different perspective. I believe every role can be meaningful.
Early in my career I worked for the second largest self storage operator in the country – nothing very sexy about self storage (except maybe to my friend Jim Kane). But our organization was driven to be known for our service and how well we treated our team and customers. Everything we did was purposeful and tied to ensuring the customer or employee experience was enhanced. My job as a leader was to grow the satisfaction of the customers and employees within my region. The corporate office roles were there to service the field leaders in being successful. We all had a very clear purpose no matter what our role in the organization.
I often state that people want to create something larger than themselves. They want to be part of a winning team, a successful company, and a thriving organization. I believe that most employees want a leader that is going to inspire and challenge them as well as support them in the journey towards great accomplishments. This part of the role for a leader requires them to take the time to create a clear purpose and direction. They also have to tie each person’s role to this purpose or direction. From the accounting department to the front line workers – everyone needs to understand that their function is an important part of the overall organization achieving its purpose.
I think this often gets lost because leaders typically only focus on one outcome – the bottom line. Everything becomes about the numbers, not the larger mission or purpose. The funny thing is that this type of organization may often suffer from employee morale issues, turnover challenges, etc.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the leaders of the organization shouldn’t be focused on their bottom line, but the bottom line is really the resulting outcome of the efforts by the whole team. That bottom line will grow quicker, I believe, if everyone understands that the company has to be profitable. However, we can create even greater profitability by driving towards a larger purpose or goal and having satisfied employees who believe their roles are meaningful.
This reminded me of a quote from the play The Profession, by Walter Wykes,
“We’ve been told there’s a certain way to live … that this is living … and we … we never really questioned it. We just sort of went along. But what if it’s not the best way? What if there’s another way that’s better? What if there’s something more?!”.
As a leader, are you just going through the motions and getting your job done or are you evaluating how you’re impacting people’s lives with the work you do? Have you connected your team’s roles to something meaningful and purposeful? If not, you need to step up your game – people will then step up their game and bring more drive and passion to their roles and to the company. It truly rests on the leader’s shoulder to set this direction.
This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family and his belief in creating a growth company with a work-to-live mentality has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services.