Why do we get out of bed in the first place?
It's a personal question, of course. But knowing what motivates your employees could make or break the success of your business.
It comes down to meaningfulness, which a new book by Minter Dial and Caleb Storkey identifies as one of the most disruptive "technologies" to futureproof your business. Dial, CEO of the Myndset Group, was formerly Managing Director at L'Oreal and currently consults on branding and new tech for blue chip companies around the world. Co-author Caleb Storkey founded an integrated marketing agency for fast-growth startups.
In Futureproof: How to Get Your Business Ready for the Next Disruption, Dial and Storkey warn that few companies are at the stage of embedding the level of direction and purpose necessary for employees to find meaningfulness in their work. Without it, however, the company lacks a crucial and sustainable point of difference, and employees risk less effective results and, ultimately, burnout.
Why Meaningfulness is Disruptive
What makes meaningfulness so disruptive?
Two things, according to Dial and Storkey.
First, for most of us, meaningfulness in our work is unfamiliar. It's hard to hear that. We want to believe that our colleagues, our staff, and we ourselves find deep resonance and personal significance in our work. But study after study shows how few of us are actually engaged at that level.
The second reason that meaningfulness is disruptive is that it has a "deeply grounding and transformative nature to it," Dial and Storkey write. Waking up every day to do work that is meaningful to you personally is a fundamentally different act than waking up to do work that doesn't motivate us to get out of bed in the first place.
When Meaningfulness Works...
What does it look like when meaningfulness is in place? How does a business execute on meaningfulness?
"Applying meaningfulness, at the smallest level, is making sure that all employees know why and how they are contributing to the company's strategy and achievement of its purpose," Dial said in an interview. "When a task is attributed a value in function of that purpose, you know that your role has a meaning. Few companies are at that stage. But that is what it will take to create a sustainable point of difference."
A popular case in point is Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods Market. Amazon may seek, as they say, to be the world's most consumer-centric company; their challenge is the long-term motivation and fulfillment of employees. In the meantime, Whole Foods sits under the banner of conscious capitalism. The question is whether Amazon can inherit a higher purpose and sense of meaningfulness without quashing the Whole Foods mandate.
When Meaningfulness is Absent...
Sometimes even the most mindful executives lapse into the dichotomy of day-to-day survival mode not syncing with their "North," which is Dial's term for a business' clearly articulated strategy that's aligned with its internal culture. The compass toward "North" starts to veer off course for leaders, followed shortly by employees and the business overall.
How do you recalibrate?
"Invest time in thinking about why you are doing what you are doing," Dial advised. "Putting your head in the sand about the dissonance between your own personal values and the work you're spending half your day doing will not only end up with less effective results, it will create a bigger heartache later. Ultimately, this explains a lot of the burnout you see."
A balance of "good negatives" and cultural intelligence also help to build a company or a team's sense of meaningfulness. "Good negatives" include critical thinking and an ability to call out your boss when they have deviated from your ontological standpoint, Dial said, while listening skills, empathy and shared values help good teams to manage adversity.