Last week I was in Cardiff, Wales where, with an extraordinary bunch of people, I co-facilitated conversations about harnessing the energy of the tides to create a renewable source of energy and maybe help the British government meet its emissions reduction targets. While the subject matter is fascinating and fraught with potential in its own right, this post is not about tides, it is about people.
The power and energy of each individual who made up our facilitation team was harnessed in such a way as to tap into their potential and unleash it. We created an event that gave, in only half a day, over 170 people an opportunity to be heard and contribute to a dialogue on an issue of significance for them. The team members went about their jobs in their own unique ways, but what made it extraordinary was their drive, commitment and passion for what they were doing and why they were there. We had a shared vision of what we were trying to achieve, clarity about who was doing what when and a collective sense that what we were doing was important. With quiet efficiency we all went about our tasks. Without having to acknowledge it overtly, we had tapped into a deep wellspring of purpose and meaning.
Passion, purpose and meaning. Elements that can make a huge difference in the work performance of individuals. I imagine some saying “yeah, but it’s easy to get that when you’re doing important environmental work”. Perhaps it is more obvious, more overt than, say, a so-called normal office job. But I believe leaders can try to facilitate a sense of purpose and meaning for any person who works for them and try to help them connect with their passions regardless of the nature of the work. There are proven business benefits in doing this.
Having a compelling vision about what you’re there to achieve, where you’re heading and helping your people share it – not by remote or by dictating it to them but by inspiring them, making the vision significant for them – means you could tap into extraordinary amounts of renewable power and energy. Ignite their passions by connecting what they do, even if it is routine, repetitive and not very exciting (on the surface), with something that gives them purpose and meaning. If they get something out of it, if they’re excited or passionate or inspired, they are happier, they stick around, they do more. That’s good for them. That’s good for business.
Remember the story (urban legend?) about John F Kennedy touring NASA during the space race? He is said to have encountered a janitor mopping the floors and asked him what his job was, to which he received this reply (or words to this effect): “I’m putting a man on the moon, sir!” That’s what I’m talking about. Harness it.