I’ve written about the characteristics of meaningful work. But what are its catalysts? It’s one thing to know what this type of work looks like. Its creation, however, something altogether different.
Creating a culture where meaningful work occurs is a shared responsibility between managers and employees. Employees must be willing to see that the workplace can be a source of meaning to their lives. Additionally, employees must be willing to contribute to the possibility of meaningful work. However, it is the manager’s first move to create an environment where meaningful work can emerge if it is to take hold across a team.
Before we look at what creates meaningful work, let’s first look at its definition.
It’s a belief that work has significance in a larger context and its meaning is understood and believed by those doing the activities.
Meaningful work stirs up internal satisfaction through doing the work and releasing it for others to benefit and experience.
While meaningful work is experienced at an individual level, its power is fully unleashed when it’s a characteristic of workplace or team culture.
So, then, what do leaders need to do to cause meaningful work? Here are nine essentials.
Clarity in your values
Know what you stand for to anchor your leadership. Creating meaningful work will challenge your colleagues. Consequently, some will vocally share their resistance with you and your actions.
Culture of optimism
The work environment needs to lead employees to believe that great results are possible through their contributions – individually and collectively. Additionally, employees are inspired by the good works of others and by their own output.
Concentration on people
A leader must believe that employees are the cornerstone to a business’s success. Leadership actions and decisions essential for meaning are made from this central belief.
Connection among employees
Meaning expands when people have a sense of belonging. Brené Brown advocates that people need to believe they can be themselves and not worry about fitting in. When connections exist among employees, belonging can emerge.
Constancy in purpose
Leadership 101 always asks us to paint a picture of where we need to take the team. Purpose helps paint such a picture.
Deeper meaning emerges when there is conflict between what we believe and do, and with different beliefs and approaches presented by others.
Charisma for learning
Meaning thrives on insight and awareness. These two criteria are only possible when we stay in a continuous learning loop. Diversity in work assignments also results in meaningful work.
Courage to care
Address half-ass work and missed deadlines. Celebrate milestones. Give just-because recognition. Have the courage to show you care about people and quality results – consistently.
Work that results in little or no progress frustrates, infuriates, alienates, and decimates meaning and hope. People must see progress and alignment with the purpose you communicate. Without progress, meaning wanes.
This list presents a major leadership challenge. The weak leader will choose to procrastinate in creating a culture where meaningful work abounds. However, given the abysmal state of the workplace, it’s a choice that cannot be overlooked if a thriving culture is important to producing results and keeping talented people from leaving your team.
Photo courtesy of Doris Hausen.