4. People Require Meaning and Purpose to Make Work Fulfilling

Agile Leaders focus on building and sharing a common understanding and purpose

A surprising number of people don’t find their work life fulfilling even though we know that people require meaning and purpose to make work fulfilling. A YouGov survey revealed that 37% of British workers are dissatisfied with their jobs and global workforce survey by Gallup in 2013 showed only 13% of the workforce are actively engaged in their work. The survey doesn’t reveal the cause of dissatisfaction. However, the field of psychology offers an understanding of why this might be the case.

Meaning and Purpose are important motivators

Daniel Pink identifies three important factors that improve motivation at work. These are autonomy, mastery and purpose.

“Autonomous people working towards mastery perform at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more.”

The notion of purpose however, is highly subjective, as is the meaning that individuals perceive about their experience. This often leads to tensions in teams and organisations as people make compromises on what is important to them. This results in demotivation affecting individuals and teams who may feel disenfranchised as their values are relegated or dismissed as being unimportant.

Individual Values

Values are the principles that guide individual and group behaviour. Values operate at many different levels. If, as individuals, we are acting congruently with our values (our values align with our work), our lives seem to flow more easily, we are more energised, motivated and even inspired. On the other hand, if we aren’t acting in alignment with our values (incongruent) then our lives tend to be stressed, things don’t flow and we have a conscious feeling that something isn’t right, although we may not know exactly what the issue is.

This is termed a “values conflict” when we are not fully aligned, or behaving according to our values. In fact, we are living out another value in place of the one we have previously identified as more important to us

Organisational/Group Values

Values are an extremely important part of organisational life, but are often downplayed or underused. Your values explain how you behave collectively in pursuit of your WHY (your purpose). Organisations should approach the exercise of eliciting values as more than a tick box activity, otherwise they miss a great opportunity to engage and inspire the wider organisational community.

“Profit isn’t a purpose, its a result. To have purpose means the things we do are of real value to others.”

It’s not just about choosing values that sound good, it’s an opportunity to get all the people working together towards a common goal. It is important, therefore, for Agile Leaders at all levels of the organisation to be mindful of the fact that values operate at all levels – and will vary by person and the role they perform. More importantly they need to be aware of where potential conflicts exist and work towards their resolution.

You organisational values articulate your WHY, why you do what you do and for many employees working towards that WHY gives them a tremendous sense of meaning and purpose in their work. Jim Stengel produced the Stengel Index that showed that companies who had a clearly articulated purpose out-performed their peers by a whopping 382.3%.

Recruiting the Right Values

Workplace values drive the attitudes and behaviours that the Agile Leader wants to see within their team. These values should include respecting others, keeping promises, showing personal accountability, and providing excellent customer service. It is important to identify and understand the workplace values of successful team members, so that the Agile Leader can select new recruits who share these values.

Action Step: What Do You Stand For?

If you are a senior leader, what do you stand for personally and what is your organisations WHY?

If you are a leader of teams or multiple teams and don’t believe your company lives its values, do something about it, lead from the front.

  • What do you stand for?
  • What do team members stand for, what are their values, have the really thought about this?
  • What are the common values amongst all of you?

From this raw material craft your team WHY and the values that define who you are, how you operate and how you behave both internally and externally. If you can do this successfully you will see peoples sense of purpose and engagement increase, both at an individual and collective level.

Here is a reminder of the power of shared values and a compelling WHY:

Download our quick reference guide by clicking on the image below:

Go to: 5.Emotion is a Foundation for Enhanced Creativity and Innovation