It is that time when we receive our final paychecks of the year and, if fortunate, a year-end bonus. As you look at how much you have earned, think for a moment about how much of your effort, engagement, and initiative was driven by dollars-and-cents. If you are like many, finding meaning and purpose in your work have far greater significance.
As Susan Cramm points out in a recent piece in strategy+business, the idea of monetary incentives arose in the industrial age when engagement was bound to be low in an “oh-so-efficient-but-mind-numbing pin factory.” In today’s knowledge economy, purpose plays a far greater role but too few leaders have adapted. Cramm writes:
If you wonder whether you have a calling, you should think about whether you’d encourage people you love to do your job, Schwartz writes. My 18 years in leadership coaching predicts that the answer will likely be no. The majority of leaders I have worked with have been conditioned to focus on promotions rather than meaning. As a result, they have difficulty connecting their values and motivations to their company’s mission, their work, and how they spend their time. When allowed to dream, they turn a bit misty-eyed, contemplating the life that they would like to live if they knew how to achieve it. It’s a sad reality that most of us long for purpose, but few of us have found it.
Cramm quotes from Barry Schwartz’s new book, Why We Work, “as ‘the millennials ascend, they will change organizations’ because “meaning is an important part of their agenda’ and ‘workplaces are going to have to listen or else [they] are not going to get the best talent.’”
Higher Ambition companies understand this. They realize that even those engaged in what may seem to be menial work want to be seen as making a positive contribution to society. Companies such as Essendant, Herman Miller, and other Higher Ambition firms innovate not just in their products and services but also in how they connect the business to a larger purpose. We look forward to sharing examples of how they do it in the year ahead.