diverse team with hands in

Engage Employees: Create a Sense of Shared Purpose

June brings exciting news – the “Lessons in Lifecircle Leadership” audiobook has officially been released! As I was revisiting some of the topics covered in the book, one seemed particularly appropriate for this point in time – engaging employees through creating a sense of shared purpose.

While doing more with less is something I’ve had to do more often than not at Loretto, I realize as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of you are trying to do the same.

Unfortunately, the reality is 70% of employees are disengaged at work. The good news is, we also know what people need to experience joy in life – a sense of purpose. Does your workplace provide you with a sense of purpose?

Regardless of whether you’re in a leadership role or not, the answer to this question is important – because if you aren’t feeling a sense of purpose, chances are others are feeling the same way. Employees must have a sense of shared purpose for an organization to succeed financially and socially.

Those of you in leadership positions may be thinking you have that covered in your mission, vision, or slogan. I have bad news; those statements are just the tip of the iceberg.

A shared purpose is something much deeper. It’s the profound sense that I know why I am here, I know why it is important that I am here, and everyone around me feels a similar way. If the shared purpose is unknown, not widely held, or doesn’t create a sense of fulfillment, responsibility, or pride, then it is nothing more than a slogan.

Creating meaning is a key way to reengage remote/distracted/exhausted workers and try to reenergize them around the mission. So how do we do it?

  • Get to know your employees. Understanding the values and experiences of employees is the key. This advice is easy to say, but hard to do. Take the time you don’t have in your day and make it a priority. Make an effort to understand their desires, motivations, life circumstances, and preferences. Getting to know your employees is going to help you cultivate your shared purpose. But it’s also going to show that you care about them and make them feel valued – this is equally as important.
  • Show your team the results of their work. Too often, work leaves one desk, goes to another, and the final result that we may see come together as managers isn’t shared with our team. We need to make time to tell them. It doesn’t matter what you’re creating, selling, serving – there is always an end result that helps others, even in small ways. Sharing the big picture shows each member of your team the role they play in something bigger. Make sure every employee has the opportunity to know how they fit into the mission.
  • Include employees in decision-making. Authoritarian managers can squash any hope of joy. As a leader, I understand there are some decisions we have to make, but for every decision like that, there are many more that employees can contribute to. Don’t underestimate this – whether you’re deciding on the setup of new office space or a workflow, even decisions that may seem small give your team a sense of control.
  • Ensure integrity and clear communication. Think about it – if you’re feeling unsure, there isn’t clear communication, and rumors are flying – you’re uncomfortable, and rightly so. There needs to be integrity in the foundation of the organization, and decision-making processes need to be practiced AND clearly communicated. An appropriate level of transparency here is best. Uncertainty can lead to fear, and all of it can lead to a complete erosion of a shared purpose.
  • Be authentic. Don’t be a professional robot at work – be yourself and engage with people. You may not be interested in the same things, cheer for the same professional sports team, or (gasp!) be on the same side of the political aisle, but that doesn’t mean we should feel uncomfortable with who we are. In today’s world, it’s no secret that we don’t agree on everything. Your goal as a leader is to show others that people can feel welcome to bring their authentic selves to work and be heard and appreciated despite differences – assuming, of course, those differences are shared with respect (another opportunity for you to set an example).

It is not only possible to find a shared purpose; it is essential. As stated in Proverbs, “without vision, people perish”; I would add without a shared purpose, organizations fail.

You’ll find more of my insight to this topic of creating a shared purpose in chapter nine of “Lessons in Lifecircle Leadership” – now available as both an audiobook and an eBook – a great summer read!