One of the best things you can do as a leader is help you people find meaning in their work. Even more so off the back of last year. A lot of people are questioning Why? What’s the point? What and who is this all for? Is it worth it? Where is the meaning in what I do? Does anyone actually care? Should I looking for something else that has more impact?
It is one of the top 5 reasons that people leave their job. According to a recent Gallup Study, engaged employees are 59% less likely to look for new jobs, and disengaged employees are quick to seek employment elsewhere. Disengagement most commonly comes down to people not finding meaning in their work. Millennials in particular are looking for meaning in their work, more than any other generation in the workforce. Meaning is directly related to connection to purpose, and feeling valued for their contribution.
Deep down, most people want to show up and make a difference - big or small. They want to know that the 40 hours they spend at work every week aren’t wasted and aren’t for nothing. They want to know that they fit somewhere, that they belong, and that the work they are doing is important and is adding value.
When you can help your people find more meaning in their work and know where, and how, they are making a difference every day, it is really powerful. This means helping them connect to the purpose of their role; helping them see and believe in the value that they add, everyday; helping them realize the impact of the work that they do, on the lives of the people that they serve.
The better you do this, the higher the engagement, the more meaning they will find in their work and the happier they will be. Yes - happier, and your turnover stats will start to decrease.
When you do this at an individual level, and a team level, it’s even more powerful.
In order to do this well, it comes down to 2 things. Sightlines and Storylines.
Sightlines: This is one of the biggest problems I hear from staff in larger organisations - “I don’t know where/how I fit” “I don’t know how what I do relates to the Vision of the Company” “I feel like a square peg in a round hole”. "I'm a waste water engineer - how does that deliver to "Thriving and connected Communities"?!?
These feelings go away when the line of sight is clear between them and the bigger picture of the organisation. It’s like when you go to the theatre - you can buy premium priced tickets and be able to see the whole show clearly, or you can sometimes buy cheaper tickets, with restricted sight lines. This means that you won’t be able to see everything, and it means you can miss some of the context of the play.
Make sure you give your people the ‘premium tickets’ and the sight lines are clear for them. This means they can see where they fit in the team and the organisation, they can see how they add value, and, they can clearly see their customer and the impact they have on their lives.
Storylines: Once the sightlines are clear, you can then find and build in the stories that bring it all to life. Tim Minchin is one of my favourite artists of all time and one of his quotes that I love is “meaning is found in the narratives of our stories”. Stories help us find meaning in things beyond data, evidence and facts.
When you can articulate what you do, why it matters and what impact you have, and back it up with real stories - yours or other peoples, it helps connect the words you are saying to emotion, and triggers a dopamine hit. This means it helps what you say stick in peoples brains.
Sightlines help people build clarity. Storylines help people build connection.
I know - I made it sound simple, and that’s because it is.
Sightlines and storylines are the fundamentals that great teams have in place. They build belonging, pride, connection and engagement. Silos decrease, connection increases, as people start to see how they all fit together. Work and teams naturally become more meaning-FULL.
The other added advantage of getting clarity of sight and story is that you no longer have to fear networking events when someone says ‘So, what do you do?’ or when you have to speak at an event about your team or organisation and what they are all about, because you have clarity of what you do, why you do it, and the impact you have. When you see people doing this well, you see the lights come on in their eyes, and they sit up straighter, their shoulders go back, and they speak with passion and conviction. It makes you think “Boy, they really know the difference they are making, and they love what they do!”
So - what’s your team story? What is it that you do as a team? What is your collective genius? Why do you exist and who do you exist for? What is the value that you create for people? And, when you add this value, what is the impact that you have?
Once you know this, go find the stories that help bring this to life, and Voila! You’ll have a Team story that is meaning Full and engaging, leave people in no doubt about what you do, why it matters and the difference you make.