How Leaders Can Help Employees Find Meaning at Work

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

In this video Dave Ulrich, co-author of “The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win,” talks about how organizations can be places where people find meaning in their lives.

“Work is one of those places where people can find meaning and purpose.”
“What is it that helps people find meaning in their work setting?”

Ulrich says that when people find their meaning that not only do they feel better about themselves and their own work improves, but the organization is more successful. Employees are more productive, customers get better value, and investors get better results.

[From the WhyofWork website]: Leaders need to attend to shaping meaning at least three levels: 1) for the organization as a whole; 2) for them as individuals; and 3) for each of their employees.

1) At an organization level, leaders need to forge the vision and values that will guide and infuse all aspects of the organization, tying the organization’s broadest sense of meaning directly to customer needs, investor values, and community interests.

2) In addition, leaders need to discover their own “language” of meaning: What types of experiences and perspectives help them find passion for their work, guide their pursuits, and infuse their workday with energy and delight?

3) Leaders also need to become multi-lingual in the languages of meaning, understanding the range of motivators and experiences that create meaning for the variety of employees they interact with each day.

The Ulrichs (2010) share 7 Principles of Abundant Organizations:

1. What am I known for? (Identity)

Principle 1: Abundant organizations build on strengths (capabilities in an organization) that strengthen others.

“Great leaders help individuals align their personal strengths with the organization identity (firm brand) and with customer expectations” (p. 53).

2. Where am I going? (purpose and motivation)

Principle 2: Abundant organizations have purposes that sustain both social and fiscal responsibility and align individual motivation.

“Great leaders recognize what motivates employees, match employee motivators to organization purposes, and help employees prioritize work that matters most” (p. 81).

Leaders need to ask: What are the insights we need to succeed as an organization? What achievements and goals will keep us in business? What types of relationships will help us get our work done? What human problems are we trying to solve? What are the most pressing motivations of this organization? (Ulrich & Ulrich, 2010).

3. Whom do I travel with? (Relationships and Teamwork)

Principle 3: Abundant organizations take work relationships beyond high-performing teams to high-relating teams.

“Great leaders help employees build skills for professional friendships between and among teams” (p. 103).

4. How do I build a positive work environment? (Effective work culture or setting)

Principle 4: Abundant organizations create positive work environments that affirm and connect people throughout the organization.

“Great leaders recognize and establish positive work environments that inspire employees, meet customer expectations, and give investors confidence” (p. 125).

5. What challenges interest me? (personalizing and contributing work)

Principle 5: Abundance occurs when companies can engage not only employees’ skills (competence) and loyalty (commitment), but also their values (contribution).

“Great leaders personalize work conditions so that employees know how their work contributes to outcomes that matter to them” (p. 157).

6. How do I respond to disposability and change? (Growth, learning, and resilience)

Principle 6: Abundant organizations use principles of growth, learning, and resilience, to respond to change.

“Great leaders relish change and help employees grow, learn, and be resilient to bring new life to their organizations” (p. 185).

7. What delights me? (Civility and happiness)

Principle 7: Abundant organizations not only attend to outward demographic diversity but to the diversity of what makes individuals feel happy, cared for, and excited about life.

“Great leaders move away from hostility and intolerance toward multiculturalism through problem solving, listening, curiosity, diversity, and compassion and by bring creativity, pleasure, humor, and delight into their organizations” (p. 219).

References

The Why of Work. Further Reading. Retrieved from http://thewhyofwork.com/index.php/books/why-of-work-further-reading/

The Why of Work. The Method. Retrieved from http://thewhyofwork.com/index.php/books/why-of-work-the-method/

Ulrich, D. & Ulrich, W. (2010). The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win. New York: McGraw-Hill.