Knowing your own purpose, having clarity on your path is a pre-requisite to finding meaning in your work
According to Mark Twain, the two most important days of your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why. The latter is a conversation that is gaining traction in corporate corridors. People are scrambling to get the top job, the corner office, the pay rise and then pondering if it was worth it and if this is all that life has to offer. Many people move between companies and continents in the search for the ‘why’ of their professional existence. For these individuals, the professional identity is meant to be a powerful expression of their personal identity and hence the search for meaning at the workplace.
Leaders and organizations need to pay attention to this phenomena at the workplace if they want to attract the right talent and retain the ones considered a flight risk. This raises three questions which I want to briefly explore:
What is the relationship between being a leader and enabling meaning in the workplace?
Again I go back to where this column started, it is not about leadership but leaderSHIFT – leaders are the ones who have to enable a series of shifts in their people and organizations to help realize their potential. Often people ask me what is the best approach to leadership development and my response is simply that leaders must treat development of the potential of each person as a sacred contract. The job of a leader is to expand the realm of possibility for everything and everyone s/he comes in contact with. Leadership development is a 24x7x365 activity and not an offsite and it is certainly not the responsibility of just the HR department. To that extent, leaders must learn to lead themselves first and leave ego outside the door before they can truly be the catalyst of potential and meaning in their organization. A powerful question a leader can ask to create meaning in the workplace is what can I do to enable you (the employee) to do your best?
Who is ultimately responsible for creating meaning in the work place?
In the most recent #indiahrchat, we invited Dr Lynda Gratton who is listed in the world’s top 15 business thinkers by Financial Times and is the founder of the Hot Spots movement. We talked of co-creating meaningful careers. Inherent in this conversation was the recognition that while meaning at work is a highly personalized experience, enabling it through support systems and processes can be a universal phenomenon. The organization is in an enabling role, but the individual is in the driver’s seat. Knowing your own purpose, having clarity on your path is a pre-requisite to any such conversation. Finding your true north and sharing it enables you to seek and design work that becomes a source of meaning. It is a necessary first step.
What can be a powerful means of enabling a culture of meaningful work?
Organizations that adopt the manager with a coach mindset and are purpose-driven will emerge on the top. They will also find that their talent brand becomes a powerful magnet for attracting the right people. At a recent LinkedIn conference, we noted that it is not about finding the top talent but finding the top talent that is the right fit for your culture and purpose. Organizations must be clear about their own purpose to enable others to align around it. In the famous words of Simon Sinek – begin with the why? Why does your organization exist and who would miss it if it was gone tomorrow?
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if ‘seeks to find meaning in work for self and others’ was on the appraisal form would we take the issue more seriously?