This morning as I left the house, I said to my four-year-old daughter, “Have a fun day on your field trip!” And she replied, “Have a fun day at work!” Her reply made me smile. It made sense, especially because it came from a child.
And yet, I couldn’t help thinking that while I like to have fun at work, I don’t go to work to have fun. I go to work because there is a purpose to my work. I believe that the work I do matters to someone. In the big picture, my work matters when it comes to meeting the needs of our clients and achieving our organizational purpose. In moment to moment ways, my work matters to my colleagues. This sense of purpose motivates me to come to work and to do good work.
I often see that this sense of purpose, of doing work that matters, gets overlooked by organizations as a key motivational driver. Instead of intentionally focusing on and communicating purpose, we focus on our tasks and our short-term goals, or possibly on having fun. While tasks, goals and fun are significant, we need to put them in their proper place – as servants of purpose.
Imagine if your work life consisted of a series of unending tasks with no connection to purpose. Imagine if your tasks didn’t matter to anyone inside or outside of your organization. Think about how this would affect your motivation to be at work. I suspect that for most of us, it would be crushing. Eventually we would stop working.
We must be able to see that there is purpose to what we do. Purpose is one of the fundamental keys to motivation. Check out Dan Ariely’s TED Talk called “What makes us feel good about our work?” for some of the interesting research connected to this idea.
I suggest naming purpose on at least two levels:
1. Organizational Purpose – Why we exist as an organization or company
2. Individual Purpose – Why the work I do matters
Here are some simple questions to ask yourself, or to ask in groups, to keep your focus on purpose.
1. What does your organization or company exist to do? Why?
2. What are you trying to achieve in the big picture, beyond profit?
3. How does the work you do contribute towards that purpose?
4. On a daily basis, how does the work you do matter for your colleagues and clients? What is the purpose of your tasks and goals as they relate to others?
At my place of work, we ask and answer these questions frequently. We speak about purpose in formal group meetings and in informal conversation. We also focus on purpose in our employee development meetings. Our purpose is why we come to work.
I encourage you to do the same.
This blog is a sample from an upcoming book ACHIEVE is publishing. The book will be released January 2019.
This book will draw heavily on “A Great Place to Work” Survey. We would love to hear your input.