Make a list of your fondest wishes about your work. Nearly everyone will put “meaningful work” on that list. We might not all say it the same way, but we want to do something that matters, that we care about, and where we feel like we are making a difference. If you have that in your work, you are blessed. If you don’t, you wonder how to find it. And if you are leader, you would like to help others find it right where they are.

Today, I am speaking to all of us. Giving you practical ways to help others discover meaningful work, and also find it for yourself.

Meaningful Work for You

Often people write and talk about finding a new job where you will find your work meaningful. My point is to look for meaning where you are first. If the ideas here don’t help, perhaps it is time to look elsewhere – but let’s start in your current work.

See the big picture.

Do you understand what your organization believes, stands for and delivers? If you like that picture, keep your focus on that. After all, even if you are doing nasty, dirty work, if you know the end organizational goal is important, it will help reframe how you see some of your efforts.

Understand what happens with your work.

You know what your job is, but do you see what that report you create is used for? Do you understand the application of your efforts? When you frame your work as outcomes, rather than activities, you have a much better chance to see the meaning and purpose in it.

Get to know your customers.

Meaning can come from the work itself, and in how it helps real people. Put your work into context by knowing who your work is delivered to and what they do with it. Whether your customer is the paying external customer or someone else in the organization, more meaning comes when you know what you are doing helps Robert or Roberta than just “doing your job.”

Helping Others Find Meaning in Their Work

If you have team members who find their work meaningful, they will be more productive and be far more likely to stay. Rather than trying to get “better employees,” here’s how to help the team members you have find meaning in their work.

Make the vision real.

Vision and mission statements are fine, but often not very connected to people’s daily work. Help people translate the lofty words into something that makes sense in real life. This isn’t an exercise of dumbing it down, rather in helping people see context. Without context, work will be transactional and less meaningful.

Give them customer interaction.

You can help people have meaningful work when they can put a face and name to who they do it for. Invest in time for team members to get to know customers. Even if the work is three steps from the paying customer, when people have interacted with those that use the product or service, work is more real. And don’t forget the internal customers too. As you break down silos and make the work about Adam and not just the accounting department, you may create greater meaning too.

Make it a goal.

Like anything else, when you set a goal and measure results, you will be more likely to make progress. Tell the team you want them to find meaning in their work. Work with them to make that a reality.

The principles are the same, regardless of which hat you are wearing. Now you have some practical ways to make meaningful work a reality in your workplace, starting today.

About the author:  

Kevin Eikenberry is a world-renowned leadership expert, a two-time bestselling author, speaker, consultant, trainer, coach, leader, learner, husband, and father (not necessarily in that order).

Kevin is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a leadership and learning consulting company that has been helping organizations, teams and individuals reach their potential since 1993. Kevin’s specialties include leadership, teams and teamwork, organizational culture, facilitating change, organizational learning and more.


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