Joy, Value, and Meaning

Josh, a manager, once asked me to facilitate his team meeting, which he would be unable to attend.

Twenty-five people attended the meeting. I quickly listed the agenda items, the first of which was to brainstorm ways to recognize and reward each other, and select the top few ideas.

One of the team members said, "Why are we doing this?" I didn't know. Josh hadn't told me, and I hadn't thought to ask.

Dan took offense at the idea. "Does Josh think we aren't motivated enough? Does he think we need we aren't doing the best job we can?"

Carla said, "You want me to be more motivated? Just tell me why you've given me these projects. How important are they? Who is supposed to benefit?"

That struck a chord within the group. Each person was working on multiple projects, and many didn't know how to answer the questions Carla had raised. More importantly, they were discouraged that they couldn't answer the questions.

Rick said, "I have five projects. I know who the customers are for two of the projects. I talk to the customers all the time, so I know how the projects help them. Those are the projects that I care about."

Janice said, "I have three projects. I know Josh wants me to do them, but I have no idea why. If you want to motivate me, give me work that is important to somebody. Tell me what makes it useful. That's what makes it all meaningful."

We ended by listing one idea—both a reward and a recognition: Help me to see how my work contributes value to someone. And we identified an agenda item for the next meeting: Prioritize the 56 projects we're working on.

In my experience, this team's yearning for value and meaning is common. Most people want to know that their work is important to someone, that they are contributing value to someone, that the work is meaningful.

That's why my mission is to help people (including myself) create value, meaning, and joy in their work.

Where does joy fit in? When I am clear about value and meaning in my work, I create lots of joy. I've found that the same is true for other people.

Is it true for you?

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