As responsible adults, we rise every morning to our alarms, commute to work in some form or another (as short as walking to a desk or as long as a hellish, traffic-laden drive), and work until we return home that evening.
Work as we know it is changing. Whether you work remotely, run from your day job to your side hustle, or set your own hours as an entrepreneur, you need to find the “why.” Why are you spending all your time this way? And to what end?
Simon Sinek explains it best in his bestselling book, Start With Why. If you don’t have time to read it (though we’d highly recommend it!) his TED talk sums it up quite nicely:
It’s no longer enough to provide a solid paycheck and benefits. We’re beginning to demand more from our employers (especially millennials) so that we know how we’re spending the bulk of our lives is worth it. How can we help ourselves, and our colleagues, find the purpose in our work every day?
5 Ways To Guide Your Employees to the ‘Why’
Do You Know Your Purpose?
The first question to ask yourself: do you actually know the purpose of your company? Before you scoff, stop and think: when’s the last time you had insight into overall business strategy and direction, not just your own? When you hear from the C-suite, are you on board or slightly skeptical? How does your company change the world?
Knowing your purpose doesn’t mean you have to drink the kool-aid. It means you know why you do what you do. If your entire team didn’t show up to work one day, would the company screech to a halt or move on without much worry? What about a week? A month?
If you’re not sure that if you took a month holiday it would make a difference, it’s time to re-evaluate. After all, how can you motivate your team if you’re not sure yourself?
Redefine The Org Chart
Creating a purpose-driven organization starts with mindset. This can be tricky in larger, more hierarchy-driven companies, but the idea starts with something we learned in elementary school: treat everyone as people first, rather than employees. That means keeping your door open, actually answering emails and phone calls, and taking the viewpoints of everyone on your team seriously, regardless of age or experience.
As an organization, you must move beyond your org chart. It can still exist for structure and for day-to-day issues, but you should work first and foremost as a team. The more you can cut across the natural boundaries that exist with groups of people working together, the easier it will be to come to one goal and one purpose, rather than get sucked into the push and pull of thousands of political priorities pressing upon you.
Create a Hero’s Journey That’s Transparent
Purpose means there’s a destination. For a purpose-driven mission to work, you must have faith in your product or team goals (such as “close X amount of dollars this quarter,” or “bring to market the next great X,”) but also personal. Do you know where you’ll be in 6 months? A year? What tools does your company give to help you grow on a personal level?
That requires creating a hero’s journey. If you’ve ever read a book or watched a movie, you’ve seen the hero’s journey, so named by Joseph Campbell. It provides the typical story structure: a person (our hero) is living in an ordinary world who is called to action by some great event. (Think: “Help me Obi wan Kanobi, you’re my only hope” for Luke Skywalker). Typically, this includes a mentor to shepherd the young hero or heroine through their fears and doubts and against their many obstacles to mastery. As individuals, we also crave this type of narrative for ourselves.
You are that mentor. You are Obi-wan. You are Yoda.
Many managers (and their reports) know this. Yet their journey isn’t laid out for them. It’s not clear that putting in the hard work will pay out either in personal growth, opportunity, or monetary gain. Though you might not be able to promise anything, outlining a clear path helps decrease doubt and increase a sense of purpose. You now have a goal (defeating the Empire) and know which skills you need to achieve that goal (mastering the Force).
Open The Channels of Communication
There’s no such thing anymore as “need to know.” Everyone needs to know. It’s their choice whether to listen, but the information needs to be out there. The less transparent an organization, the less employees see the purpose. They can’t see the decisions and so they can’t see the end goal.
Though it’s impossible to include everyone in every decision, it is possible to communicate more. To be clear: communication does not mean more meetings. It means more exchange of ideas. When you’re making decisions that impact the company, walking everyone through the reasoning and argument (even in an email) can help clarify the path and pull everyone towards the same goal.
The same goes for the team. If you’re unhappy about something, or disagree with a decision, it’s the manager’s job to create an environment where it’s ok to say something. You’re not obligated to change your decision, but understanding where people aren’t following you can help you better communicate in the future (and maybe, just maybe, make better decisions, too.)
Also read: 10 Communication Hacks to Boost Your Career
This is the most difficult to do, but the most important: be authentic. If you don’t know what’s going on in the levels above you, don’t dodge the question. Just say so. You don’t have to be an all-knowing and mysterious power. You work with people, not robots, and so the way you work with them should be more personal. Does that mean you have to have beers every night after work? No way. But it does mean that taking the time to know about their lives, families, and backstories means something, and makes your relationship more real and relevant. It’s hard to be motivated when your boss doesn’t even know your birthday.
Ultimately, injecting the personal into the professional adds authenticity, builds trust, and allows you to build a sense of purpose. All organizations have goals and have a purpose. Your job is to find the “why,” that will resonate the most with your team so that everyone can do the best work they can, and maybe have a little fun along the way.