Cash, Career, and Calling: Why DO People Work?

Three key reasons people work are for cash, a career, and/or a calling.  Mike Morrison from Toyota Motor Sales put together the Meaning Meter.  If you come to work only for cash, it’s a start; you do what you have to do, but your meaning meter is not high.  If career advancement is your primary objective, it is certainly a responsible activity to work at bettering your position in life; but again, your meaning meter may be low.  However, if you come to work because the contribution you are making is a unique contribution to a higher purpose, your meaning meter rises. Today, one thing we know for certain: young people coming into the workforce want a high meaning meter!      

As leaders move people up the meaning meter, they create higher engagement, higher commitment, more innovation, and ultimately better financial results.  Why?  Because people put their hearts and souls into their work.   

A transformational leader is one who transforms what is potentially mundane work into purposeful, inspirational work. You may have heard the medieval story of the two stone masons carrying huge blocks of stone from the quarry.  A bystander asks the first man, “What are you doing?” and the man says, “I’m carrying this heavy stone and I have to cut it later in the heat of the day.”  The bystander then walks down the road and asks the next man, “What are you doing?” The man looks up proudly and says, “I’m building a cathedral.”  

In this story, the first man has a boss focused on getting the stone cut and pays for performance per stone.  The second man’s  boss focused on why the stone was being cut, engaging every employee around a noble effort.  The first boss is tough minded and expects an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.  The second boss knows that as the culture of meaning is created, there is a higher chance the work people do will be exceptional, done with love and care.  

If you want to optimize the potential of your people, raise the meaning meter.  Create the knowledge, feeling, and belief people come to work for a greater purpose than just money and career.  For example, a health care provider taught all of the nurse’s aides about the power of connecting with patients.  Instead of just changing bed pans and doing routine checks on patients, the company invested in training around the soft skills of what they considered a “sacred calling” - taking care of people at their most vulnerable moments.  Nurse’s aides became important care providers in the overall chain of human healing.   As a leader, think through how to humanize and elevate the interactions of each and every activity.  You are inspiring people to a consistent and committed purpose.  

Three initial practices to get you started follow. 

1. Always start by engaging employees around the values.  Research from MIT Sloan points out that most companies have values, but the true leader  emphasizes these values as core to the culture.  For instance, if you are in health care and your value is to put the patient first, then all communication must put this priority front and center.  If financial goals are given prominence, they will displace the purpose-driven goals of the company. In other words, emphasize that the financials results are a natural consequence of focusing on your core values. 

2.  Start every major management review with a story of how a customer’s life was impacted by your product or service.  Ask a couple of people to come prepared to share their story.  At board meetings, don’t start with the financials.  

3.  Start with a review of how you are achieving your core purpose as a company: why you exist.  Ratan Tata, the recently retired CEO of the Tata Group in India says that purpose is “a spiritual and moral call to action; it is what a person or company stands for.”  People in your company want to buy into something they believe in.  They want to make money, but they also want to create a meaningful place to work, a stronger community, and a better world.  If you don’t model this, you are stuck with employees there to make cash and build a career, both of which are good enough. But is that enough for you? With courageous action, you can inspire people to engage their hearts and souls in a clear sense of purpose.  

Taking the High Road: Mindset Three - Humility with Strength

Sixty Minutes just produced a lengthy piece on Pope Francis and what is driving his world wide popularity.  He was after all, Time’s Person of The Year.  You could sum it all up in one word - HUMILITY.  It is the Pope’s humility that is drawing the admiration of millions.  For instance, every Holy Thursday, which is the Thursday just before Easter, it is an ancient tradition for popes to wash the feet of priests.  On Holy Thursday last year Pope Francis chose to wash and kiss the feet of teen-agers in a detention center just outside of Rome - two of whom were women and two of whom were Muslim.  It was unheard of in the Catholic Church.  So what is the message of Pope Francis as a leader.  He’s saying, “We lead with humility and in our humility we project great strength.” 

Jim Collins said a mark of leaders he has studied is humility with great strength or resolve.  Indeed, humility with strength is a virtue celebrated in every major spiritual tradition.  Humility says, “I have a special place in the world but no more special than any other person in this world.”  Strength says, “I’m confident with what I do know and I’m confident I can find the answers to what I don’t know.”  Other people can sense humility with strength instantly.  A well trained leader can also sense false humility - the discounting of yourself and being oh so very proud of the fact you have done so.   

So when you encounter a difficult person or are dealing with a difficult situation, approach it with strength and humility.  Remember humility comes from the latin word humus which means “grounded” or “from the earth.”  So with your feet firmly grounded,  here’s a way to respond with humility and strength:  

  • Listen to the other’s point of view and respect the other’s strengths.  C.S. Lewis said humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less!  As Franklin Covey said said so well, “Seek first to understand.”
  • Formulate your own point of view and articulate it carefully.
  • If you believe the other person will listen, engage.  If not, act in a way that does not get ugly.  Look for a way out with grace.  Do not walk away with regret - walk away with dignity.  If you do blow it, find a way to loop back and sincerely apologize.  We are not perfect and 98% of people will appreciate your apology and move on.

What a perfect time of year to reflect on strength with humility - perhaps the most powerful leadership mindset of all.  

  • Please note this leadership post is Part II of an original post that was sent out last week - The post is directly below here on on the Next Solutions site.  

    * Picture coutesay of Associated Press

We Are All Difficult - So Build a Heart to Take the High Road

Every leader, every day, deals with difficult people.  And yes, you as a leader are also at times difficult to deal with.  Let’s face it, we are all very complex creatures - we have egos, we have blind spots, and we do things that will inevitably annoy others.  For some, developing the heart to deal with complexity in ourselves and others is an energizing life journey.  For others, it is demotivating, accompanied by painful memories of remorse, self-doubt, and denial.  As a leader, you can build and condition your heart to take the high road in handling adversity in relationships.  I suggest three critical mindsets to take you to a higher order of thinking and acting.

Mindset One:  Integrate, don’t split.  Peter Drucker said the job of a manager is to, “identify the strengths of the people you lead and focus on these.”  Rarely is a person the complete embodiment of “jerkiness.”  If you think someone is completely messed up, that leads to arrogance and anger on your part, and you fail to see any short comings in yourself…it’s always the other person’s fault.  Cultivate the mindset of asking,  “What is the core strength of this individual?”  “How can I appreciate and leverage these strengths?” 

Integrate the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses, into one whole view of a person.  For instance, I’ve done a great deal of work with entrepreneurs.  Many of them have been over confident, have high drives to be in control, appear wonderful when you first meet them, and as time goes by, they are fearful of sharing, want to remain in control, and lack insight into their own idealized views of who they are. In other words, they can be really hard to deal with.  If I focus on the negatives, I will make no progress in being of help.  If I focus on their positives, such as the willingness to take risk, a relentless drive to never say die, and a great ability to cast a positive vision that others want to follow, then I can bring awareness to the entrepreneurs of what they are missing in key situations.  If the leaders don’t know I appreciate their strengths, they will never trust me with their weaknesses. 

Mindset Two:  Don’t condemn differences in personality style —  affirm these differences.  As I  like to say in coaching situations, “Opposites attract, they just don’t always get along.”  A principle in human relations is that the greater the difference, the greater the probability the relationship will go sideways.  In fact, extreme opposites often find that their relationships become debilitating, both in marriage and in work.  For instance,  if you are a high control, direct, and high goal oriented individual dealing with a more impulsive “cat like” personality that loves independence, there is a high probability each of you will begin seeing the “negative” traits of the other.  At this point it’s easy to become judgmental and describe behaviors as “dysfunctional” and “counter productive”.  Learning to affirm your differences in style is critical.  Your relationships become what you can see in others and build up, not tear down.  I co-authored  an instrument called Your Style of Influence, which has helped countless teams understand vast differences in style.  The assessment often creates the “big  aha” - people see why they are fighting, and can then transform conflict into a productive exchange of complimentary strengths.  

The third mindset is the most critical and I will take it up in my next leadership post coming out early next week.  

Please - write your comments below if you want to add some color to what I’ve said here.  It’s always appreciated by me and by others.