Purpose creates meaning and success
20 December 2021
We are social animals – we live in families, we are part of communities and we work in groups. Our collective success is greater than the sum of our individual efforts. Being social is wired in our biology, and we both survive and thrive because of it.
It is, in fact, one of the reasons businesses exist, because we work together to achieve goals and make improvements that are good for us individually, for our communities and our futures.
But when a leader loses connection to the business’ purpose of cooperatively creating value for individuals and communities, employees lose motivation, look for other opportunities, and burn out.
These things result from the employees not knowing why their work benefits them, the business or the community.
One way this happens: leaders often get lost in the details of problems but they can benefit from stepping back and determining if the purposes and values of the business are well communicated and understood by employees. Admittedly, all problems include working with details, applying specific knowledge, and making decisions that rely on both capacity and limitations.
However, many problems or related series of problems are rarely only due to details, and very often, problems or roadblocks come from employees or teams not understanding the purpose of the business and how that helps other people and the community.
When a problem crops up (which is as sure as the sunrise), consider these questions:
- Do the people involved from my company understand what we are trying to do? This is true for the macro and the micro – the purpose and values of the business and the specific project.
- Is there something I can do to communicate how the business benefits the employees, the customers and the community? Am I doing that as part of the efforts to solve the problem?
- Are the people involved in the problem too disconnected to the business purpose? Is it too hard to see? What can I do to correct that?
Think of any specific job in your business, no matter how senior, no matter what skill. In order to lead that business successfully, every one who has that job also has the human need for social connection, and his or her duties need to be part of the larger community. So the baggage handler, pilot and reservation agent in an airline all need to understand their part of “making vacation travel easier” or whatever the business purpose is, in addition to his or her specific duties.
You can make your business problems easier to solve by tying an individual employee’s job to the purpose of the business, and then how the business benefits the community and customers. This way, every employee knows what he or she is doing satisfies our need to be social, productive and part of society.
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