Purpose is something we can all experience everyday at work – but that doesn’t mean it always comes easily. It’s up to us to discover why we do what we do.
Purpose is the feeling that we are making a difference; contributing to something greater than ourselves. It’s bigger than the figure on our payslip – or the organisation’s annual profits. In fact, for many of us, having a sense of purpose at work is more important than compensation.
Organisations with highly engaged individuals who are fulfilled by the work they do have productive, innovative cultures with high morale and excellent retention rates.
If we approach work with self-awareness and make an effort to seek out purpose, it’s not as difficult to find as you may think. Let’s take a look at 3 ways to create the alignment of purpose and performance in the workplace.
Define the Why
Finding purpose in our everyday work is actually largely up to us but managers and leaders can help facilitate the creation of purpose for their team by getting crystal clear on why they do what they do. How does the team contribute to the greater purpose of the organisation?
Tips for leaders –
Create a clear statement on these following points for your team –
- Purpose of the organisation
- What your team does / team purpose
- Why your team is important to the organisation’s purpose
- How your team will deliver results / what does success look like?
Breaking it down to the what, why and how will demonstrate how the work of the team directly feeds into the purpose of the organisation.
In large workplaces it can be more difficult for individuals to feel connected to the purpose of the organisation as a whole.
However, if team members understand why the team is important to the organisation, they can then connect how their work is important for the team. Once they see this, work can become more meaningful for everyone.
Tips for individuals –
You may be thinking – “Ok, I can see how my work brings purpose to the team, but honestly, it doesn’t really feel meaningful to me on a personal level!”
Purpose can be found in the simple, everyday moments. It might have nothing to do with the work itself but all about your attitude – for example; find your purpose in being a positive, encouraging and diligent team member.
Even if your job is entering data all day long, you can still bring a great attitude to what you do and find purpose in being a supportive, productive and positive team member.
Think about what personal values are most important to you and how you can bring these out in your workplace. Finding meaning and purpose (in anything!) begins by really examining your own core values and beliefs – it’s not the responsibility of your boss or an organisation to find your purpose for you.
Share human impact, not just data
How do you make people care about their job?
The truth is you can’t force anyone to care. But you can help inspire them with reasons to come to their own decision to care about what they do.
One way to bring more meaning and purpose to work is showing the impact the team makes on people – customers and stakeholders. It’s easy to circulate monthly data reports with performance results but stories about human impact can be much more motivating.
Leaders can share stories or situations to show the difference the service or product is making in the lives of real people.
Regularly highlighting positive customer feedback with the whole team is a great starting point. Or, leaders can take it to the next level by inviting people who have been helped by the service or product to come in and actually share their stories with the team.
Nothing brings people together like helping others. Partnering with a charity organisation is another way to help instill a sense of purpose in the team. Activities like volunteering together at events is also a great way to strengthen interpersonal relationships.
Find the flow state
When we work on tasks that leverage our personal strengths while providing a challenge we find ourselves slipping ‘into the zone’ – also known as the flow state.
Flow is the state where our challenges and skills align; where we’re being pushed JUST enough beyond our capabilities and feeling challenged but not totally overwhelmed. In this flow state, we feel engaged and purposeful with an activity and time can seem to fly by!
In his best selling book, Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience, author and legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, highlights how when we’re involved in flow activities, our satisfaction levels of work and life experiences are optimised.
When we’re doing activities that might require skill but present no challenge, we slip into a state of apathy and boredom – polar opposites of purpose.
If you’re feeling disconnected from your work; volunteer to do something you haven’t done before, or even try to lead a small initiative within your team.
Leaders, look at how you can cultivate and maximise the strengths of your team members. Finding out what motivates your team individually and what their personal strengths are is the first step to helping them find meaning in what they do.
We can’t always spend every minute working on activities we love or are good but even getting into the flow state for one or two hours during a workday can leave us feeling reinvigorated with a sharper sense of purpose.