3 Ways Managers Create Meaning

How do you help employees pull meaning from their work? Ultimately it’s the employees choice to derive meaning in their work. There needs to be, however, an environment that enables this to occur. You hold much of the responsibility to foster an environment that lets employees apply their strengths to challenging work, act autonomously, and view their effort and the reward favorably.

The following three items are major inputs to creating an environment that helps employees pull meaning from their work.

Purpose Driven
Why are you a manager? What fuels you to lead your team to achieve results? Why do you want to help the company and your team succeed? These are big questions with an answer that typically changes overtime and with experience.

Invest the time and diligence to identify your personal values. Identify what meaningful work means to you. Write it down. I have a single sheet of paper that lists 2-5 work projects that are meaningful to me. They support my purpose. It’s on my desk reminding me everyday to take action on them.

There is no short cut with this one. You must be willing to know and tap into your passions, strengths, and experiences. Mine them and direct them into your role as manager and leader.

This clarity will help you be clear on priorities. It will help you know when your purpose is at odds with the company’s and manage through it.

All this to say when you’re clear on your purpose, it comes through in you actions. You’re intentional. You’re clear. You’re consistent, more often. This influences the work environment. People will pick-up on it.

Political Navigation
Not everyone in your company will agree that work needs to be meaningful. In fact your boss may be one of them. As such, you may need to maneuver through some office politics.

Navigating politics is a separate post for another day. I encourage you to read Gwyn Teatro’s recent post on this topic.

In the meantime, you may need to prove the value of your leadership approach to help employees pull meaning from their work. I learned somewhere along the way this tip: keep an unpublished spreadsheet that tracks the projects your employees work on, the time they spent, and the project’s measurable outcomes. You’re looking to support your leadership approach if ever questioned.

Creating Vision
This is another big topic. Simply stated, what is the vision for your team? Do they know it? How often is it reviewed? Did they help create it? Do your newer employees know the vision?

If you don’t have one, spend time with your team creating one. Plan with the team how you will revisit it and track progress towards achieving it.

  • A team’s vision can change over time. A few basics about vision statements:
  • They don’t include “how” the vision will be achieved
  • The statement reflects “what” is possible
  • Some statements are time sensitive
  • Plan for team’s wordsmithing to-death the vision statement
  • Navigate the trap of spending too much time crafting a vision statement thereby reducing the time spent executing to achieve it.
  • Let it simmer in people’s minds for a short period
This post original appeared on Shawn’s previous blog.

Graphic by Shawn Murphy

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of ExchangeGain. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

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