The Purpose-Driven Grind

By: Bethany Whitted


What is your relationship with work? Perhaps work is a constant stressor, a bug in your ear that won’t go away. Or maybe you love what you do, and work is energizing. Many of us likely fall somewhere in the middle. Regardless, changing our mindset about work can help you attain more energy and prevent you and your people from burnout.

As a leader, your attitude towards work will spread throughout your entire organization. What’s the messaging around work at your company? Is it a necessary evil to get a paycheck? Or is the work itself valued and completed with pride? Here are 4 principles to transform the way you and your people view work:

Work is a gift.

My first job was working at Gap in a sparsely populated mall. I really did not enjoy my time at work, and I can remember counting down the minutes until my shift ended. One day when I really didn’t want to go to work, a friend reminded me that work is a gift. There are many people in the world who would love to have your job, or any job! Having a source of income is something to be grateful for.

As a leader, exercise and express gratitude for your position. You’ve been entrusted to be an influencer of people. A grateful spirit is contagious (so is an ungrateful one) so your people will likely be more grateful themselves after hearing you express gratitude.

Work is a necessary good.

Some people work for a paycheck. This is an OK way to live, but not the most fulfilling and effective way to live. The other approach is to work to add value to your company and the greater society, and let the paycheck follow.  In other words, work for the sake of the value you’re adding to the world. This approach tends to result in much more success, happiness, and, ironically, typically leads to a bigger paycheck.

As a leader, it’s important to regularly communicate to employees their impact. Regardless of the job, there is meaning in it. Think about it… If we all stopped working, there would be no food, no music, no technology, no new ideas, etc. All jobs play a role in making our society go around. In some way, your employees are helping other people. By making this connection clear, you can inspire purpose in your people.

Work is more fun when we apply ourselves.

Work has the potential to energize us. When we engage with our tasks we can achieve what psychologists call a state of “flow.” When we’re in flow, we lose track of time, forget about everything else other than the task at hand, and work effortlessly. Work begins to feel fun. We can only get to the state of flow by applying ourselves.

Demonstrating a state of flow to your employees is likely to rub off on them. We find people who are in states of flow inspiring. They forget about themselves and their eagerly working towards an important mission in a way that makes other people want to pursue that same mission. Encourage your employees to apply themselves and take pride in their work, and be a model of flow.

Everyone possesses a unique contribution to the workplace.

All of your employees bring unique abilities to the workplace. If an employee is truly miserable in their position, it could be that they are not in a job that fits their skills and passions well. Keep your employees updated with potential open positions in the company. Encourage them to try new things at work or to explore unconventional career development pathways. Embrace a growth mindset, in which employees are encouraged to seek out new skills rather than limiting themselves to what they’ve always done.

By recognizing that everyone brings unique gifts to the workplace and allowing employees some flexibility in their career pathway, employees can find jobs that match their desires and talents.

Wrapping up.

We spend a lot of time at work. We might as well savor it rather than wish it away! No matter what the job is, we can find gratitude for it and a purpose behind it. By embracing and expressing these four principles, you can transform the way you and your people view work. When your people see their work as a good thing, your organization will produce better results and your people will get more life out of their hours spent at work.

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