I attended a Gallup webinar the other day that went over the statistics on who are the happiest people in the world? There were some really interesting things that came out of that discussion such as Latin American countries leading this index occupying the majority of the top spots. What was really interesting as they drilled down into the data for most first world nations was that happiness seemed to be tied to median income and their take on this was that this was not tied so much to money as to purpose. In looking closer at this they said most of us see our purpose as connected to our work hence the strong tie to income.
This got me thinking; is this a true statement? Do we find our purpose in work? Do we get to the end of our life and say "I wish I had worked more?" I don't think so but I do think that there are clues found in this research that point to some things that may reveal a bit more about the work/purpose connection.
When we first start out work carries a different meaning for us because that is where we forge our first professional friendships and those are important and certainly become part of our social life as well as professional life. As you progress though you discover that friends and work colleagues move on to other companies and often those relationships fall by the wayside. You realize that building a personal life around work can be frustrating and at times unrewarding.
A good example is the recent research revealing that millennials a far more willing to move to companies where they feel part of a team, a social network and where they feel appreciated and are doing something vital. They often will give preference to those issues over salary considerations. In fact, new studies have turned on its head the idea that work/life balance which at one point suggested happy homes (life) created happier workers is in fact the opposite in which happy workers tend to be happier at home and enjoy life much more as a result. The emphasis being how do we make happy workers?
This challenge really has always been with us. If you work in the "patch" or any other industry sector you know that when people move, often they will have a cohort of friends or colleagues move with them. Success was the purpose and some refined this to an art; buying start ups, bringing in their teams, building the company and selling for profit and then doing it all over again. Succeeding at this sort of challenge for a group of friends can be a powerful purpose.
That sort of purpose still happens but in today's labor market those circle of friends may have other causes or issues that they rally around and work becomes a place that enables them to pursue these interests either through salary earned or in some cases through giving staff the freedom to support these causes through company sponsored programs. It may not be the work itself that provides purpose but simply is a means to an end. Either way these are powerful elements of a persons life.
Here is the core of the issue; no one wants to work for someone who does not acknowledge them as people first. People of all stripes want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Maybe it is the work and the challenge of creating success or maybe you work for a company that shares your passion for the homeless or the environment. The purpose can be intrinsic (internal) or extrinsic (external) but giving someone a chance to express that purpose is really about acknowledging them as people.
If you own a company, or are leading a team of people this is a crucial truth for you to understand; people won't care about your credentials or your leadership until they know you care about them as people and are committed to their growth (discovering and achieving their purpose). When you stop and think about it doesn't that give you some added purpose as a leader? Yes, challenge your team to hit the targets you have set for them, after-all that is why you are all there, but never do it at the cost of their humanity or rob them of the chance forge their own purpose.