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The Power of Purposeful Work - WinShape Teams Blog

Unlocking Employee Engagement

The Power of Purposeful Work

September 12, 2023
Lead Organizations
Rusty Chadwick

A few statistics…

In their 2023 State of the Global Workplace Report, Gallup recently revealed that only 23% of employees globally and 31% in the US are engaged, while the majority, 59% and 52% respectively, fall into the “not engaged” category, also known as quiet quitting. One contributing factor, according to Gallup’s research, is that only 33% of US employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel that their work is important.

Translation: most employees are not engaged. And this is partly because only a third of the workforce feels strongly that the purpose of their company makes their work feel important.

While statistics are helpful for seeing the big picture, I think this is something we each know from our own experience – we want our work to matter, and if we don’t feel that it does, we are less engaged.

Purposeful Work - we want our work to matter

This presents a huge opportunity for both leaders and team members!

As leaders, we must communicate a compelling purpose for which our workplace exists and help every person in the organization see how their specific role is tied to something bigger. As team members, we must look beyond our individual tasks to see how those tasks serve the greater purpose. Team members can also take initiative to encourage one another in the deeper importance of daily tasks.

Purposeful Work - Rusty the ranchhand

A Bigger Purpose: 

One of the best jobs I’ve had was working as a wrangler at a Colorado guest ranch. That job had some great moments – loping a good horse through a wildflower-filled Colorado meadow with a group of “yeehaw”-shouting guests living their best cowboy and cowgirl life is a good feeling.

But there were less glamorous tasks as well. As you might imagine, with a herd of more than 100 horses, one inevitable part of the job was scooping the corral multiple times per day. Clearly, this was not a flashy job, but I rarely remember it feeling menial. Why? I knew I was working for a bigger purpose.

The mission statement of the ranch was “to provide an unforgettable guest ranch experience that turns guests into friends and friends into family.”

I wasn’t just scooping the corral. I was creating an environment for families to reconnect; for individuals to step outside the busyness and stress of everyday life and rediscover what is most important; for people to reflect, to grow, to laugh, and to build core memories that would last a lifetime.

Walking through a dirty corral is a barrier to having the best experience possible. By scooping the corral, I was removing that barrier. Sign me up!

Purposeful Work - working in the corral

My experience at the ranch serves as an example from which we can all learn. From my first day onward, leaders pointed me to a purpose that was greater than the work I did day-to-day. It was clear that my purpose was creating an unforgettable experience, not scooping the corral or leading horseback rides. The same was true for the men and women working in the kitchen, dining room, housekeeping department, and maintenance crew.

Of course, we must train job skills, but perhaps a more important responsibility for leaders is that of discovering and communicating a deeper purpose. As Simon Sinek famously said in his viral TEDx talk, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

This is true for employees as well as customers.

As I consider this topic, I am challenging myself with the following steps. What about you? Which of these has the most potential to help your team members be more successful and fulfilled in their work?

Purposeful Work - fulfillment is found in meaningful work

1. Revisit the team’s purpose.

Take time to reflect on the purpose of your team or organization. Is it clear? Is it compelling? If so, great! If not, set aside time to look carefully at the core reason your team or organization exists. Look beyond the product or service you offer to consider the impact that product or service can have on the world. If the purpose is not clear to you, it certainly won’t be clear to the team.

2. Communicate the purpose again and again.

Make sure your team members know the purpose. Communicate it often and in different ways. Tell stories that demonstrate how the purpose is being accomplished. Better yet, encourage others to tell stories of how they are seeing the purpose accomplished in big and small ways.

3. Help team members connect their work to the purpose.

This may be the biggest opportunity of all. Many leaders may know the purpose and share it from time to time, but how many of us are regularly helping others connect their daily tasks to the bigger picture? Are we helping the person scooping the corral to know they are creating an environment for family connection and recreation? Does the data analyst know he or she is making insights possible that can improve people’s lives in a meaningful way?

Purposeful Work - communicate your purpose

At WinShape Teams, our purpose is to build strong, healthy, fulfilling teams that change the world around them. We come alongside teams, team members, and leaders to help build healthier, more effective relationships with work, and with each other. We know that when leaders and teams are unhealthy and dysfunctional, personal fulfillment will be low.

This not only impacts work, but families and communities as well. But when leaders are healthy and well equipped, when teams are high-performing, and when people are growing and flourishing, personal fulfillment goes up, and this can have a positive impact on relationships in every sphere of life.

That is a powerful purpose! Every member of our team must know it and know how their work contributes to this purpose. It is my job, and the job of our leaders to remind them often.

What about you? Are you clear on a compelling purpose for your work? Have you been clear about this with your team members? How often do you help team members connect their daily tasks to something bigger?

As the English writer Samuel Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” Let this blog be today’s reminder for you and for me that we all want our work to matter, and as leaders, we must help others know their work does.

Purposeful Work - Book a team retreat

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