Why talk about your purpose? Aren’t you too busy for such introspection?
When you are driving for results, it may seem odd to reflect on your purpose.
But purpose drives results. If you aren’t in touch with your purpose and the meaning of your contributions, you may be creating results right now, but you may lose the longer game.
And if you can’t help your employees see the value of their purpose as it relates to company results, you are losing out.
Here’s the long-game secret to staying engaged, performing well, hitting target goals – and helping others to do all this, as well:
Purpose + Motivation + Engagement = Results
These three things work together to help us move forward in life with joy and resolution. Together, they are what compel us to climb mountains, to learn foreign languages, and to work with commitment on those challenging new endeavors that require tenacity and perseverance.
You see, all humans seek meaning and purpose. We ask ourselves questions such as, “Why do I exist?” “Why am I here?” “How do I bring value to life, to the larger picture?”
Understanding the answers to these questions is a powerful driver. If we do not find our purpose in life, we lose interest in life. Purpose is what tells us the value of our unique self. It gives us a reason to be, a goal to work toward. If we can’t understand our reason for existing, we lose sight of our value as human beings.
If, on the other hand, we understand how we best contribute to a larger picture, how we bring value to life’s table, this allows us to recognize our worthiness as human beings.
When we have purpose, we live differently. Looking outside ourselves to a larger picture removes the tendency to center on ourselves. We a sense of well-being and contribution. Our dopamine rises to give us pleasurable feelings of energy and positivity. We have a reason to live.
In his epic work, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl illustrates this. As he recounted his experiences in a World War II concentration camp, Frankl observed that those inmates who gave themselves a goal or recognized they had a purpose were much more likely to survive. Some held onto the vision of seeing their families in the future, and Frankl himself found purpose in reconstructing a manuscript he had written and lost on the way to the concentration camp. This purpose, these goals often meant the difference between the will to live – or not.
As you can see, purpose drives motivation.
What is your purpose?
Purpose compels us seek to achieve something with our contributions so that we can fulfill this purpose. We are stimulated to move forward, to target goals that will help us reach what we feel is our purpose – and as we see in Frankl’s illustration, is what gives us a reason to live, even in the most difficult of circumstances. We are motivated.
And motivation is what gives us the energy, drive and excitement to move forward in a certain direction or go after something we want to achieve. It’s the fire that fuels us and is necessary for us to steadily remind ourselves of who we are, our meaning and purpose.
But if purpose and motivation are what gives us meaning and energy, engagement is what keeps us going. Engagement compels us to persevere when times get challenging. We need engagement to truly reach the top of the mountain or to master that foreign language. One can be motivated to begin a new endeavor, but quickly abandon this when the going gets tough.
Think about a time when you set out to achieve something great and succeeded. What kept you going when you faced obstacles to your goal so that you remained engaged?
How can you use your experience with this to motivate and engage others so that they move forward with purpose? Here are four ways you can begin that are simple to implement with great returns:
Be intentional about recognizing your team members as human beings.
We talk a lot about how to recognize and reward people for their good work, because this is key to motivating them. However, there are lots of resources out there on this, so I want to focus on a more basic, daily recognition of others as human beings. Begin the day and each interaction by eliminating feelings of anonymity. Check in by touching base personally before jumping into the task at hand. Remind them that you care about them as people by asking about their family, their weekend, or if they’ve been able to work on that hobby lately. We all get extremely busy, and sometimes, this can become a troublesome trend whereby people feel undervalued or not seen. Don’t let this become your culture.
Find out what drives your team members.
Set a time when you can talk to your reports individually about their career aspirations and how you can best support them. Include an exploration about their strengths, what they feel they bring to the larger picture, and what drives them. They will feel recognized, supported, and energized. This also helps you to move them toward those projects, assignments and roles that most excite them – and will benefit the company most. It will aid you in knowing how to coach and mentor them, seeking those opportunities that align with their passion and interests.
Connect work to a higher meaning.
When motivating and engaging others, it’s necessary to help them remember how their work connects with higher meaning. In order to do this, we need to understand how tasks and activities assigned to a role affect the larger picture. Let’s say, for instance, that some of your employees are in charge of customer service. The role requires problem-solving for customers all day long.
If your employees understand their contribution to the larger picture, this can keep them motivated and engaged when the going gets tough. Here’s how you help them make this connection: list the outcomes that come to mind when you have a satisfied customer.
I can think of the following: A happy customer = boosted company reputation, new business leads and referrals, more company profits, more jobs… This is one example of taking one’s tasks and responsibilities and connecting them to a higher meaning. When we understand our contribution to this larger picture, it reinforces our purpose, allowing us to recognize our value and worth.
Give people more authority – not just responsibility.
People thrive on decision-making authority. It’s empowering and allows them to learn and grow, releases you to focus on other things, and brings fresh perspectives to the company. This means that you need to take more of a coaching and mentoring approach to your leadership. This helps you to leverage your people power and ability to achieve at the same time that you grow and develop others so that they can assume more responsibility.
Motivating and engaging yourself and others requires intentionality. It requires different conversations, but ones that are much more meaningful and rewarding. I challenge you to begin by incorporating one of the four steps above to see how it works for you.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.