Now that the first quarter of this year is coming to an end, many of us are naturally taking stock of how much progress we’ve made towards reaching those targets we set out to attain this year. This naturally leads to an examination of our current efforts to promote the growth and development of our organization and with it, new opportunities to broaden our scope and leverage our existing assets.
And yet, while many leaders are eager to find ways to foster growth-promoting initiatives within their organization, many struggle with creating those conditions that are necessary for supporting a sustainable, thriving workplace environment.
No doubt this is largely due to the disconnect between where most of their efforts are being placed and what’s really required to engage, inspire, and empower employees to become fully committed participants in the shared purpose that defines their organization’s collective efforts.
Indeed, in the past few years, there have been numerous studies which have conclusively shown that organizational growth and success in today’s interconnected world is no longer dependent solely on the various processes and measures we implement in our workplace.
Rather, the key differentiating factor is how well we’re able to demonstrate the connection between the everyday work our employees do and the overarching shared purpose that defines our organization’s raison d’être. That our employees feel compelled to bring their best selves to the work they do because they themselves derive a sense of purpose and meaning through the contributions they make.
Of course, while many of us can understand the value and importance of promoting purpose-lead work to our organization’s success and longevity, the challenge lies in how do we ensure we’re creating such conditions in our workplace, especially when the needs and requirements of our employees can be quite diverse.
To help you address this quandary, I’d like to provide you with a few questions that you can use to ascertain whether your current efforts serve to connect what matters to your employees with what matters to your organization, and thereby create those conditions that are necessary for the long term success and growth of your organization.
1. Do I know what matters to my employees for them to feel successful?
Granted, this might seem like a rather obvious question to begin with. Unfortunately, too many leaders are not asking themselves this question, which is why we continue to see these stagnant levels of employee engagement in organizations around the world – you can’t get people to care about the work they do if you don’t care about them as well [Share on Twitter].
And the fact that few leaders are asking themselves this question only serves to compound the difficulty in both pushing forward change initiatives as well as encouraging a continuous learning environment in their organization.
If the only people who can see the value behind these efforts are those in charge, it becomes exceedingly challenging to get those at the front lines to be fully committed to the idea or process. And consequently, you end up leaving valuable talents, insights, and experiences by the wayside because your employees are not fully invested in this idea or measure.
That’s why we need to start this process by asking ourselves how well do we understand what matters to our employees. Of what would make them feel like they’re making a difference, and what tasks and responsibilities would help them move closer to achieving their own personal long-term goals.
For most employees, the only time they’ve been asked about their career aspirations was back when they interviewed for a job at their organization. Once they were hired, any interest in where these individuals saw themselves in five years was soon lost in the ether of the daily grind.
As such, if we are to create conditions that allow for sustainable organizational growth and success, we need to make this conversation extend beyond the hiring process so that we can better understand how we can serve our employees in the same capacity that we want them to serve our organization.
2. Do I delegate opportunities for growth or just tasks to my employees?
One of the best places to figure out whether we are helping our employees to do meaningful work is to look at the kinds of assignments and responsibilities we give to our employees. Specifically, when it comes to assigning tasks to your employees, is your focus on handing out work in order to ease your current workload, or are you also looking out for how you can help them to become stronger contributors to your organization’s shared purpose.
Granted, in light of today’s faster-paced, continually evolving work environment, it is easier to simply assign tasks or responsibilities that will help us stay on top of the rising onslaught of demands for our time, attention, and resources.
However, if we are to ensure through our leadership the long-term success and growth of our organization, we have to put in place a culture and workplace environment where our employees are able to adapt and change course when faced with new information or opportunities.
And that means that we can’t be handing out work for the sole purpose of treading water or maintaining a comfortable status quo. We shouldn’t be delegating to our employees only those tasks or assignments we don’t want to do or worse, can’t be bothered to spend our time and efforts on.
Instead, we need to provide our employees with opportunities to grow and evolve; to help them develop both the competencies and mindset that will help them anticipate where they can make the biggest and most meaningful contributions to our organization’s vision.
Remember that the key to your organization’s prosperity rests on your ability to help your employees grow [Share on Twitter]; that we provide our employees with opportunities to stretch themselves and to challenge their assumptions about themselves and their ability to contribute to our organization’s vision and purpose both now and in the future.
3. Have I connected what my employees do to the vision that drives our collective efforts?
One of the common characteristics you’ll find in those organizations that are not just succeeding, but thriving in today’s global environment are those where each and every employee sees a direct connection between what they do and the overarching vision of the organization.
One of my favourite examples that helps to illustrate this point is the story of the janitor who worked at NASA during the Apollo space missions. One day, a group of visitors was touring the facility and when they saw the janitor walking down the corridor in his lab coat, one of the guests asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor looked at the guest and said “I’m helping to put a man on the moon”.
Now of all the jobs being done at NASA at the time, this janitor’s job is probably one of the least connected to the space mission. After all, he wasn’t working on designing or building the rockets, he wasn’t working on training the astronauts, and he wasn’t part of the team responsible for overseeing the missions when the astronauts blasted off into space.
And yet, none of this mattered because this janitor nonetheless saw a clear connection between the work he did and the larger purpose of this organization. And the reason why he had a vested interest in the organization’s vision was because those in charge helped him to see and understand the value of his contributions, and how it did in fact play a key role in allowing them to put a man on the moon.
There are, of course, numerous other stories of janitors and other service personnel who feel a strong connection between the work they do and the vision behind their organization’s collective efforts.
There was even one study which looked at hospital cleaners and found that one-third of them said they viewed their work as a calling because there were encouraged to feel a sense of purpose and meaning in the work they did to help these hospitals function properly.
Through these stories and case studies we’re reminded how leaders need to provide every employee with the opportunity to contribute to your shared purpose [Share on Twitter]. That we shouldn’t view our employees from the limited lens of what function they play, but instead as shared owners in the vision we all collectively want to achieve.
While there were a few more questions that I considered adding to the ones above, this series of questions makes for a good starting point for you to reflect and assess how are you showing up to lead your employees, and where are you putting your focus and efforts in terms of driving growth and success in your organization.
It’s also important to note here that the answers you derive from these questions shouldn’t be the end point from which you gauge present and future efforts by yourself and your employees. Indeed, we have to remember that leadership is not about what you know, but about what you want to discover [Share on Twitter].
Of your sense of curiosity to learn how you can continue to better serve those under your care and help them to feel a sense of meaning and purpose through the contributions they make.
Ultimately, what this all comes down to is appreciating that doing meaningful work is more than just being successful; it’s learning how we can become better [Share on Twitter] than we are today. That through our leadership, we can encourage the development our employees, to help them achieve their goals so that they in return can help us achieve growth and success within our organization for many years to come.
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