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Michelin Man Seeks Tire Nirvana
By Jody Urquhart   Printer Friendly Version

Why it's essential to understand the difference you make through your work.

Let's talk. What difference do you make on a day-to-day basis to others? Someone like Mother Teresa would be able to answer this question immediately. She was dedicated to helping the poor and suffering. This mission drove her. She awoke in the morning with a burning desire to help others.

Few have work as immediate and pressing as Mother Teresa's. Most of use are disconnected from the difference our work makes. It seems like we are fulfilling these tasks and do not immediately know why. Consider this, what overall affect does your work or the works of others in your department have?

The Difference is You

It is essential to take time and reflect and reconnect with the difference your work makes. Why?

1) Many employees dutifully do their job but don't regularly get to see who benefits and how;
2) if employees could see how they contribute to the good of the company or the good of the community they would naturally be more driven;
3) many roles are "sealed off" from the rest of the company and especially the consumer;
4) employees get caught up in the "tasks at hand" which can become boring and meaningless if not connected to the whole operation;
5) the most successful companies are mission driven.

Big Paycheck, Small Payoff

Brian recently gave up his job as a realtor to be a computer analyst. He disliked working long hours for little pay. Now he works long hours for lots of pay but very little fulfillment

He misses seeing the spark in a customer's eye when he hands them the key to their new home. Now he spends all day looking at his computer screen. He wonders, "Why do I do this job? What impact does it make?" He misses the connection to the customer and the final product.

Brian isn't alone. Hundreds of people are looking for more meaningful work. How we think about what we do goes a long way in determining the satisfaction we derive from our work. Many people think the primary reason a company exists is to make a profit. Therefore there is no real benefit to anyone but the company itself. For most companies this is too narrow an assumption. In fact, management theorist Peter Drucker doubts that there is such a thing as a profit motive at all. Most successful companies have gone through many periods of ups and downs where they didn't see a profit. There were other reasons driving them to go on.

When I speak at a company's annual meeting about creating a meaningful workplace, I am surprised to find that most people haven't actively considered this concept. They think work should be naturally meaningful if it is the right job or work environment for the person. This may be true in the beginning but if purpose and contribution aren't continually renewed the work starts to suffer. The truth, is purpose doesn't just hit you one day-it has to be cultivated.

Cultivate Meaning in Your Work

How do you cultivate more meaning on the job? Here are some concrete ways:

1) work to expand your role. Get out and understand how your job relates to what others do in the company. For example, someone in manufacturing could spend a day with the sales force;
2) understand the overall impact you make to the company. If you missed a day on the job, who would notice? If you missed a month, what would happen?
3) understand the impact the final product has on clients and customers. Find some, success stories from customers and tell others in the company about them;
4) find a way to keep conversations with customers and colleagues alive, such as regular gatherings, newsletters and email;
5) list your strengths and unique qualities in your job;
6 ) how will you help your clients be more successful five years down the road?
7) get a copy of the company's vision and craft your own vision in relationship to the company's;
8) write down all the major tasks you do on your job and relate them to your vision.

Visualize Your Success

By far one of the most powerful and inspiring tools to create meaning is vision. How do you craft your vision? The best way is to go directly into one. Here is a vision I use in my seminars: close your eyes and think about someone in your field that you admire and/or aspire to work with. Specifically think about what they have accomplished. Think about them on the job, what makes them successful? Now imagine yourself in a similar role, what unique qualities make you successful? Visualize it clearly enough that you can feel the feelings of success as if it is happening. Imagine yourself winning an award, feel the positive feelings of achievement. Others are complimenting you. Key clients and customers are thanking you for your contribution.

Go through this vision in your mind at the start of every day.

It's Up to You

The way we view our job is essential to success. We each can only cultivate this attitude individually. That's why it's essential to spend time seeing how others benefit and grow from your work. Believe in the benefits of your service and this will naturally flow over to clients.


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