Do You Find Your Work Fulfilling?

In a company without purpose, people have only a vague idea of why they are do what do. There’s always activity and busyness, but it’s often frenetic, disorganized and focused solely on short-term goals or finances. There is often a lack of direction and commitment without purpose or ‘we are doing this for the sake of what?’.

Top executives erroneously look to the competition when making decisions, rather than making up their own minds about what really matters. Their lack of clarity leads to poor business decisions, failed product launches and disengaged employees.

“Across organizations, nearly every survey suggests that the vast majority of employees don’t feel fully engaged at work, valued for their contributions, or freed and trusted to do what they do best,” reports Tony Schwartz in a recent  HBR.org blog post. “Instead, they feel weighed down by multiple demands and distractions, and they often don’t derive much meaning or satisfaction from their work. That’s a tragedy for millions of people and a huge lost opportunity for organizations.”

Absence of Full Engagement

Simply put, satisfied and engaged employees perform better. In a Towers Watson study of roughly 90,000 employees across 18 countries, companies with the most engaged employees reported a 19% increase in operating income and 28% growth in earnings per share. Companies whose employees had the lowest level of engagement had a 32% decline in operating income and an 11% drop in earnings.

People take pleasure in being engaged in meaningful work. Humans, by nature, are a passionate species, and most of us seek out inspiring experiences. Companies that recognize this and actively cultivate and communicate a worthwhile corporate purpose become employers of choice.

A major Gallup Organization research study identified 12 critical elements for creating highly engaged employees. About half deal with employees’ sense of belonging. One of the key criteria is captured in the following statement: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.”

After basic needs are fulfilled, an employee searches for meaning in a job. People seek a higher purpose, something in which to believe, to contribute to the greater good. If, in your role as a leader, you aren’t articulating what you care about and how you plan to make a difference, then you probably aren’t inspiring full engagement.

In the work I do, this is a major concern for people: they either aren’t sure what it is that their own true purpose is, and/or their not sure what their organization’s is. Coaching is designed to help people find the connection between job requirements and fulfillment and meaning.

If you aren’t clear, ask your coach for help in finding answers. And if you need help in finding the right coach, let me know.

Why Are You Here? Connecting to What Truly Matters

Knowing why you’re here, and who you want to be, isn’t a part-time job. The challenge is to live out what you stand for, intentionally, in every moment. ~ Tony Schwartz, author

Purpose and values are more than touchy-feely concepts touted by motivational speakers. They  have been identified as key drivers of high-performing organizations.

  • In Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras reveal that purpose- and values-driven organizations outperformed the general market and comparison companies by 15:1 and 6:1, respectively.
  • In Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard professors John Kotter and James Heskett found that firms with shared-values–based cultures enjoyed 400% higher revenues, 700% greater job growth, 1,200% higher stock prices and significantly faster profit performance, as compared to companies in similar industries.
  • In Firms of Endearment, marketing professor Rajendra Sisodia and his coauthors explain how companies that put employees’ and customers’ needs ahead of shareholders’ desires outperform conventional competitors in stock-market performance by 8:1.

Leaders who have a clearly articulated purpose and are driven to make a difference can inspire people to overcome insurmountable odds, writes Roy M. Spence Jr. in It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For.

“Life is short, so live it out doing something that you care about,” he writes. “Try to make a difference the best way you can. There’s an enormous satisfaction in seeing the cultural transformation that happens when an organization is turned on to purpose.”

This author makes some very good points backed up with real examples of some of the most effective companies in the world. In the work I do with people in organizations, so often I find that there’s confusion over what’s really important.

While a well-designed strategy and its effective implementation are required for business success, neither inspires followers to sustained engagement. Purpose speaks to people’s hearts and helps them contribute their best when the chips are down.

Don’t ever take a job— join a crusade! Find a cause that you can believe in and give yourself to it completely. ~ Colleen Barrett, president emerita of Southwest Airlines

It’s up to leaders to find that spark that can light up the hearts and minds of employees at all levels. And, it’s also up to each of us to find that inner purpose that’s the guiding light for our energy. Coaching can help find it if you haven’t already identified and articulated it for yourself.

5 Biases That Lead to Bad Decisions (Part 3 of 4)

From the introduction: Each of us is susceptible to irrational behavior’s irresistible pull. Only when we gain insight into our irrationality can we see the extent to which it affects our work and personal lives. Fascinating patterns emerge, and we can master our behaviors and decisions when we connect the dots.

Value Attribution

It takes enormous energy to consciously work through all possibilities and risks when weighing important decisions, so the brain looks for shortcuts. We use unconscious routines, known as “heuristics,” to cope with complexity – and they normally serve us well.

But these shortcuts also present traps because they largely occur without our awareness. Value attribution serves as a quick mental shortcut to determine what’s worthy of our attention. When we encounter new objects, people or situations, the value we assign to them shapes our future perceptions of them.

If, for example, we see a poorly dressed street performer playing music in a subway station, we assume he’s a struggling amateur with little talent, even when the music is good. These assumptions were proved true when Joshua Bell, one of the finest violinists alive, participated in a field study for the Washington Post.

While Bell, dressed in jeans and a baseball cap, played a $3.5 million Stradivarius, subway travelers rushed by without paying attention. While he certainly sounded far from mediocre, he looked the part – and commuters attributed the value they perceived (appearances) to performance quality.

The Bell experiment illustrates why we may turn down a pitch or idea based on appearances, rumors or any other peripheral value. It also explains why we may blindly follow the advice of someone who has been highly recommended.

Our expectations change our reality, as the “placebo effect” demonstrates. Once a doctor or advertisement tells us a drug will relieve pain, the medication has a greater chance of working – even if it has no healing properties whatsoever.

Becoming aware of our brain’s tendency to make assumptions can help us prevent disastrous mistakes and missed opportunities.

Diagnosis Bias

When we encounter new people at a party, we quickly diagnose them by placing tags on them, such as “approachable” or “standoffish.” This helps us quickly decide if we want to engage them in conversation.

By employing this mental shortcut, we fail to see a person’s good qualities. Nowhere is this clearer than in job interviews.

A meta-analysis of data found there is little correlation between unstructured job interview success and job performance in new hires. The marks given to job candidates after a first date-type interview have little to do with how well those hired will actually perform on the job.

Nonetheless, companies are drawn to this interview format. Managers form impressions by asking questions they hope will ensure a person is a good fit:

  • Does this candidate share my interests?
  • How’s the chemistry between us?
  • Is there a connection?

Managers value their intuition and think they have a refined ability to truly see and understand an applicant. They overestimate their ability to form objective opinions and underestimate their subconscious’ biases.

Managers should, instead, forego unstructured interviews and focus on a candidate’s past experience and responses to hypothetical scenarios.

This blog post was part 3 of 4.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.   Bookmark us and come back tomorrow for the conclusion!