Whether you're running a start-up or are a manager at one of the world's largest companies, the morale of your team can make the difference between success and failure. People want to know why they are going to work each day and they want to feel that they are making a difference.
Helping employees connect with purpose will not only help you retain and attract the very best people, but also will enable you to discover ideas which will save you money and do more good in the world.
Cultivate "Stories of Self"
This classic principle of community organizing was applied brilliantly by the Obama campaign during the 2008 election. Instead of training volunteers to memorize a script as to why candidate Obama was great, the organizers trained volunteers to speak about their own experience and why they became involved in the campaign.
Today organizing principles are uniting with business head on. At the recent staff retreat Dev attended for Change.org, a fast growing B Corp, employees developed "stories of self" by reflecting on why they were involved, why the work was important and the turning points that had brought them to that very juncture. It ended up being one of the most intimate and rewarding parts of the retreat grounding everyone in their individual purpose.
Contextualize Your Mission
What problem does your company solve? How have people tried to address these issues in the past? Helping your employees identify themselves as part of a long historical arc working towards a common goal fosters purpose and provides meaning. It is a sense of purpose that is commonly found in those interested in family genealogy. Uncovering the past links and stories of our industries forbearers can spark that familiar genealogical sense of importance and responsibility to the work we carry forward.
Intrapreneurs are individuals who reshape companies for the better from within the business. Your job is to create an environment that is conducive to intrapreneurs by setting up processes to gather, vet and act on the best ideas coming from employees throughout the company. In these days, it goes beyond just setting out a 1980s-style suggestion box.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to connect like-minded employees encouraging them to move disruptive ideas along for the benefit of the company. It was a Vice Chairman at Morgan Stanley who decided to connect an optimistic micro finance-obsessed intern with the right manager that ultimately led the company to develop a micro finance offering.