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Maintain a Startup Attitude for a Passionate Office

This is the first article in a series looking at how leaders can create an engaging work environment for their employees. In this post, Scott and Ken Blanchard look at the power of meaningful work and alignment.

The difficult thing about working with people is that…well, they are human beings! People have feelings, and ambitions, and wishes. They come in all different personalities, temperaments, competencies, and expectations.

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Managing and dealing with all the complexities people bring to work is a big challenge for today’s leaders. That’s because each individual’s perception of their work environment directly impacts their emotional state and subsequent intentions to work diligently and creatively for your company.

There is a fable about a man who approaches three laborers breaking and shaping rocks. The man asks the first laborer what he is doing. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m breaking rocks,” the laborer replies. The man asks the second laborer what he is doing and he responds that he is building a wall. The man then asks the third laborer what he is doing and the laborer responds, “I’m building a cathedral.”

The three men are all doing the same work, but each with a different perception of its relative worth. Which man do you suppose is coming to work happier and more engaged?

The first man sees his work as a job, the second man sees his work as a task, but it’s the third man who sees his work as a worthy calling, because he is clear about the bigger picture and how his work connects and adds value.

And it is that man who, according to our employee work passion research, has more positive intentions about

  • performing at an above-average level
  • being a good organizational citizen
  • using more discretionary effort on behalf of the organization
  • remaining with the organization
  • endorsing the organization and its leadership to others

Advice for leaders

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So how does a leader help a group of people who might see their work as only building walls, or worse yet, just breaking rocks, see the bigger picture?

First, remember why you got into business in the first place. Without an occasional reminder, sometimes it really can seem like the only reason the organization exists is to make money for shareholders.

All organizations began with an idea–an entrepreneurial dream. In the beginning, it is something exciting–it is all about the possibilities. And it is all about the vision. From there, a small group of highly committed people does anything and everything it can to further the cause. As organizations grow, that initial passion can be lost. Leaders need to remind others through their actions and words what the organization’s bigger purpose is. Meaningful Work is a sense of awareness that needs to be reinforced on a regular basis to bring people up from the weeds so that they can actually see the bigger picture.

Second, connect the dots between an individual’s work and the organization’s overall goals. Make sure that individual tasks and roles are aligned to current initiatives by regularly reviewing what people are working on and how it is contributing to overall performance.

Are you taking the time to check in with your people? Are you and your people in touch with changing customer needs? Are you working together to define and redefine performance expectations according to a changing landscape? Are you praising them along the way? Are you offering continuous feedback? Keeping your work relationships vibrant is not micromanaging. It’s showing people that you care and that their work is important.

Employee Work Passion–it’s priceless

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Helping people see and understand the meaningfulness of their work is one of the most powerful things you can do to create strong and powerfully motivated employees.

Employee Work Passion defines and separates great leaders from also-rans and great companies from also-rans. For leaders in larger organizations, the challenge is to recapture that same passion the organization had when it was small. For leaders in smaller organizations the challenge is to build and scale that ability as they continue to grow. The meaning derived from being part of a bigger purpose can be present no matter how large or small the organization is.

And to a certain degree it’s free. Yes, it takes time and energy, but it is not something that has an actual price tag–that is, until you lose the hearts and minds of your employees. That’s when you will pay dearly. It’s the lack of Employee Work Passion that costs organizations. Yet when you have passion in the workplace, and when people do feel part of something bigger than themselves, it’s absolutely priceless.

For more information, please visit KenBlanchard.com. You can also follow Ken Blanchard on Twitter @KenBlanchard.

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About the author

Scott Blanchard is the Executive Vice President of Client Solutions for The Ken Blanchard Companies®. Ken Blanchard is the best-selling co-author of The One Minute Manager® and 50 other books on leadership

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