Recently, I was reading an article about what makes a life worth living; and one of the three areas touched upon was work. This got me thinking about how different work today is from work in the past. If we think of work in the narrow sense of the activities performed to earn a living, we can see how organizations have dramatically changed the experience and quality of work today. In other words, with the result or product of work being more detached from the activities of work, it has become harder to connect the two and find meaning in what we do. Consequently, work has become far less satisfying beyond the need to support ourselves and our families.
The experience of building a product (or delivering a service) on our own versus being part of a large team of people and being responsible for a small part of that process can be quite different. What is meaningful for us is not only the difference that product makes for people but also the actual tasks required to make that product. Consider the craftsmen or artist who experiences great pleasure in producing a piece of furniture or art. Today, most products or services require many different tasks performed by many different people where not all tasks provide the same level of joy or fulfillment for the performers.
Having work be meaningful and fulfilling for all is one of the great challenges of Purposeful Leadership. Here are some areas to explore in creating that sense of value, meaningfulness and fulfillment in the work we do:
- Creating tasks and activities that have inherent value in their performance
- Matching the tasks or activities with those individuals who enjoy doing them
- Connecting the performance of those tasks to achieving the organization’s Purpose
- Reinforcing organizational Purpose as the true measure of success
- Measuring organizational success
- Communicating that success to all those doing the work
How else can we again make work an important part of what makes life worth living for all of us?