Three articles and a podcast have come together lately to re-enforce the need to provide people with purpose.
The other day I was reading an article on entrepreneurs; a key trait in them is that they like to create and build. It went on to say that not all people are oriented this way and benefit from working for others. I agree.
Another I read spoke about business strategy. Surveys indicate that a great deal of employees understand what is expected of them from day to day but really don’t have a clear idea on where the company or local team is going.
Another talked about connectivity of people in the world today. It posed a simple question; Do you know how a pencil is made? I sure don’t and I suspect a great deal of people don’t. In our world now we have become further and further removed from what others are doing and understanding and appreciating their contribution to our life. And in some ways we each contribute smaller amounts to each others lives because the contribution is further spread out and harder to see. Lets take the lifestyle of small villages, you know the person you get your milk from, her family and probably most her cows by name. Compare that to today where a factory worker sits at a machine which pumps out a single capacitor, it becomes part of a larger manufacturing process to make thousands of different devices and one happens to be your computer mouse. Now think about the relationship you would have with these two people. I suspect one we could pass by on the street without a glance while the other would be almost like family. And then what do you think about the milk vs the computer mouse, perhaps greater appreciation?
And then a podcast I listened to this morning retold the story of the “”3 Stone Cutters””:
A traveler came upon three individuals working with stone. Curious as to what these workers were doing, the traveler approached the first worker and asked, “”What are you doing?”” Without the slightest hesitation, the worker replied, “”I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones.”” Still unclear of the workers’ task, the traveler approached the second worker and asked the same question. To this the second worker thought for a moment, gazed briefly at the traveler and explained, “”I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones to earn money to support my family.”” Perplexed by the two different responses, the sojourner approached the third worker and asked, “”What are you doing?”” Stopping for a moment, the worker stared at the stone in his hand, slowly turned to the traveler, and said, “”I am a stone cutter and I AM BUILDING A CATHEDRAL!””
Three men – all working at the same site, performing the same task – each had three very different perspectives of what they were working toward.
It seems that the nature of people leading businesses is oriented around imagine and build. It follows that their companies are oriented around growth and do just that. Things like roles, measurement, communication etc are all geared to being bigger, faster, better. The guy/gal at the top generally has the vision that the company should be the best at what it does (hopefully it isn’t just about earning money), but how effectively does that translate down to employees?
So not only is it important to communicate the direction of the company to employees, which a number of cross industry surveys show we aren’t doing, that communication needs to make people feel they are part of something. That they are contributing to something that has a purpose. It doesn’t have to be a cathedral but they do have to understand how their stone contributes. I personally believe that a company which also includes purposes such as teamwork, innovation, ethical business and social contribution within its strategy will give employees a heightened sense of purpose.