In a fast-paced work environment, it’s easy to keep our heads down and put our blinders on. Even when we’re focused and productive, we can miss the big picture. Maybe you’ve experienced this, going days, weeks, even years without being able to connect the dots between your own work and a larger sense of meaning or purpose.
But when employees feel their work is connected to something larger, everything improves. And as a manager, you have a chance to put meaning at the center of your mission in ways that can transform your workplace and invigorate your team. Research shows that employees around the world want to do work that feels meaningful. That means one of the biggest opportunities before you as a manager is to help your direct reports change the way they see their work—not as a series of unrelated small tasks but as steps in a journey worth taking.
The idea of finding meaning at work—and even speaking those words in the same breath—is relatively new. Increasingly, and fortunately, when we talk about work we don’t merely mean labor. There’s a global conversation about business, impact, and purpose that’s expanding our collective definition about what we do and why we do it. As a manager, you have a chance to jump-start the conversation in your own workplace, elevating your company’s mission and inspiring your employees to do work that doesn’t just check a box, but truly matters.
Here are three ways you can get started:
1. Make impact part of the workplace conversation
In your team meetings, make a habit of pointing out the larger goal or purpose of what you’re doing together. It’s all too easy to focus on what’s right in front of you without ever connecting small tasks to big objectives. Remind your direct reports that you’re pursuing big, meaningful goals—when you do, they’ll feel inspired and invigorated.
2. Invest in relationships
Remember that the people on your team are your greatest resources. Make it your personal goal to create an environment that fosters meaningful relationships between your direct reports. The moments of connection, humor and shared purpose will set the stage for greater engagement and improved performance.
3. Know your direct reports as people, not just employees
It’s easy—and for many of us, natural—to put up a wall between our work lives and personal lives. That’s up to the individual, but as a manager you can engage your employees on a deeper level. People like to talk about themselves, so try asking your team members more about their lives beyond work. When you create a culture that encourages them to bring their real, authentic selves to work, they’ll be more engaged and start seeing their work as more than just a grind.