Have you ever stopped to consider how remarkable Wikipedia is?
The online encyclopedia represents arguably the greatest collection of knowledge and information ever assembled--and the overwhelming majority of the work in creating and maintaining it has been done by unpaid volunteers.
On the surface, the success of Wikipedia makes no sense--how could (and why would) a team of volunteers possibly complete such a massive undertaking?
The answer has repercussions for leaders and business owners in every industry: Money isn’t everything. In fact, a sense of purpose is more important than the size of a salary when it comes to inspiring top performance from employees and team members.
That doesn’t mean that money isn’t important, and it doesn’t mean that you can slash paychecks without fear of consequences. But it does mean that money alone is not enough to inspire the type of passion, dedication, and peak performance that every business owner wants from their team.
To bring out the best in your people, you need to create a fulfilling workplace environment and a sense of purpose for your employees.
Below are suggested first steps in this process:
1) Define your purpose. And no, “make lots of money” doesn’t count. Ultimately, what is the goal of your business? At Apple, Steve Jobs's goal was literally to change the world. Amazon.com sought to completely redefine the way books are bought and sold. Your sense of purpose may not be as grandiose...but it should include some type of value which you create for your customers or your community. What is the purpose of your business beyond generating income?
2) Integrate this purpose into your company culture. It’s easy to come up with a formulaic sense of purpose that looks great on your company website--but integrating it into the everyday environment in your office is a totally different challenge. A corny motivational speech isn’t going to get the job done. Start by practicing what you preach and by taking steps to acknowledge, encourage, and reward employees who are dedicating themselves to the company vision. Above all, this purpose must be authentic and transparent to employees and your customers!
3) Learn to listen. Ideally, you should engage your employees into this discovery process from the beginning. You may be surprised to hear what they think the purpose of your business is. Your employees desire fulfillment, whether they explicitly recognize it or not. So ask for their input. Solicit suggestions for creating a more productive and fulfilling atmosphere. Empower employees to pursue fulfillment whenever and however you can. Be aware that some employees may not personally align with the purpose of the company and that can come to light as part of this process.
The next time you visit Wikipedia, take a moment to soak in the enormity of the project--and reflect on the fact that it was created by individuals motivated by nothing other than their own passion and sense of purpose. As a business owner, if you can tap in to the passion of your workforce, you can accomplish things that no amount of money can buy.
[Image: Flickr user Michael E Clark]