Ensuring clarity around team purpose will drive higher team perfomance and employee engagement.
As a leader, you should be talking to your team about the purpose and meaning of their work.
Being a leader isn’t all about managing performance. We also look to our leaders for inspiration and motivation. As human beings, we naturally crave a sense of meaning and purpose. We want to feel like the work we are doing every day means something—and we look to leaders to help us articulate that meaning.
Great leaders can make a real difference in their employees’ motivation and engagement by communicating about the meaning and purpose of the work a team is doing. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your team is clear about the organization’s strategic priorities, and how the team’s work contributes to those goals. And because younger generations are particularly focused on meaning and purpose at work, so this aspect of leadership will only become more important in the future.
WHY IT MATTERS:
A sense of purpose drives much greater employee engagement.
It’s not just young people: research has shown that people who feel like they work for a purpose-driven company are much more engaged than people who don’t see a purpose in their work. A purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be completely altruistic; people can find meaning in all kinds of work. A purpose is simply an answer to the question, “Why are we here?” The answer could be anything from ‘we’re keeping our community safe and healthy’ to ‘we’re creating a world-class product that our customers need.’ The key is making sure that employees have an answer to that ‘why’ question.
This issue has only become more urgent for employees during the pandemic. Research shows that two-thirds of employees are reevaluating their purpose in life right now. As a leader, you can make a real difference in how much purpose and meaning they can derive from their work.
Team performance is much higher when people have real clarity about what they’re at work to do. Help your team see its purpose.
As discussed in my book, Accountable Leaders, my team’s research has found that the strongest and highest-performing teams have a high degree of clarity about what they need to accomplish, and a strong commitment to doing what it takes to deliver on those goals.
In other words, purpose and performance go hand in hand—instilling a strong sense of purpose in your team will help create the clarity and commitment your team needs to become truly accountable.
WHAT TO PAY ATTENTION TO:
Does everyone on your team understand the team’s purpose?
Communicating a sense of the purpose of your team’s work will improve engagement and performance. Here are a few ways you can incorporate purpose and meaning into your daily work as a leader:
- Check in on purpose and clarity in individual and team meetings. You can check for clarity by doing things like asking your team to identify how a specific project ties back to the organization’s larger strategic goals. You can also communicate purpose to individual employees and to the team explicitly: “We all need to work together to ensure this software update rolls out smoothly because it includes several features our customers really need.”
- Review strategic priorities together regularly. Take time in a team meeting once a quarter to review the organization’s strategic priorities. Help your team draw connections between those big-picture priorities and their day-to-day work. “The company has set a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2040. This quarter, we’re going to dig into a supply chain audit to identify where most of our emissions come from now.”
- Make sure you refer back to the larger purpose of your work when assigning tasks. You can also tie deadlines back to larger strategic goals: “Let’s get this data review done by the end of the month, so the Board can make the call on whether to proceed at their Q4 meeting.”
- Tie praise back to purpose. When you celebrate an accomplishment or simply compliment someone on continued hard work, tie that praise back to the purpose of what you’re doing. “Thanks again for your hard work on that design. It looks great and it’ll really help us achieve our goal of reducing waste in the manufacturing process.”
Does your team have a strong sense of purpose?Gut Check for Leaders
- Are you inspiring the people you lead?
- What is the purpose of a corporation in today’s world?
- Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave
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