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John Izzo

August 30, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Do Your People Feel a Sense of Purpose at Work?

Bestselling author and business visionary Dr. John Izzo helps companies maximize their potential from the ground up. For over 20 years, Izzo has worked with thousands of leaders around the world, on employee-engagement strategies and brand transformations. Dr. Izzo explains the importance of leadership in helping employees stay committed to an organization’s goals:

In the early 1960’s President John Kennedy was visiting a NASA site and met a janitor. When he casually asked the worker what his job was? The janitor told the President “I am helping to put a man on the moon.” Research shows that when we see the purpose of our job, not just the task, we are more engaged, more productive and more committed. This month I’d like to share some ways we keep people “on purpose” at work.

More and more studies are showing that stress in the workplace is on the rise and not just because of the workload, but even more so because of boredom and meaninglessness. There is almost a one to one correlation between people feeling proud of where they work and levels of employee engagement and commitment. When we researched Awakening Corporate Soul interviewing almost 3,000 people about their most engaged times at work, one of the most common responses was “I was proud of the services or product we provided and felt they made a difference for people.”

When Gallup did their large studies on engagement four years later, they discovered that saying yes to the question “The mission of this organization makes me feel MY job is important” were much more likely to be engaged. And it’s not just the mission, but people seeing the connection between their job and that mission. Going to work day to day just to do a “job” wears down a person’s psyche. A recent study found that associates that see their job as a “calling” rather than a “job” worked longer hours, were more productive and far less likely to call in sick.

It all begins with leadership and a company’s mission. Even the most confident individual can feel disempowered if the culture or mission doesn’t have a clear purpose and how each person is connected to that purpose. Zappos is a shining example of this. CEO Tony Shea is a master at fostering a culture of purpose. Their product may be shoes but it’s the mission to keep the customer happy that makes Zappos a team of fulfilled employees. And when we make others happy, our lives are rich with purpose. Zappos creates a family atmosphere where every employee is not only allowed but encouraged to have fun and bring their own sense of style and contribution to the workplace.

The second step is to make sure we help associates see their “Job Purpose” not just their “Job Function.” At Disney’s Amusement Parks, they tell people whatever the function of your job is (taking tickets, selling passes, etc.) your Job Purpose is to “spread happiness.” The Job Purpose must focus on the real difference the person makes for customers or clients. The more people focus just on the task of their job, the more they lose interest. It is our job as leaders to drive home the message of method acting creator, Constantine Stanislav who said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Here are some ways to help people see the big part they play:

  • Always connect the mission with the numbers. Balance communication about profits or margin with stories about the real difference you’re making with customers.
  • Regularly talk about the mission of the organization and connect people’s jobs to the mission.
  • Have each person write their own job purpose, not just from a function perspective, but from their relationship with the client/customer. Write out your own as a leader too!
  • Keep supporting people to see the line of sight between their job and what really matters. Keep connecting the dots. How does what they do really matter.
  • Make sure every meeting highlights some way your people have really made a difference in the lives of real people–EVERY MEETING
By Dr. John Izzo