Can you help your people gain purpose without resignation risk?

If you help an employee gain a greater sense of purpose, could they have an epiphany and leave? They might, however you should also weigh up the consequences of doing nothing. A line manager recently told me that he saw inaction as a greater risk, where people lack ‘zing’ and teams fall short of their potential.

I find that ‘purpose’ is a fuzzy concept – it may be used to describe anything from helping charities to personal missions, team focus or organisational direction. Decoding what it means is the first step in the process.

Giving people time and space for reflection may indeed set in motion a process that ends in resignation. Arguably, if they aren’t totally invested and inspired in their work then it could be the best outcome for all concerned. On the flipside, equipping them with the means for figuring it out improves the strength of the employer-employee relationship.

I come at this with some experience after a personal purpose-driven crisis that led to me blindsiding my boss with a resignation letter and, although I have no regrets, I know that a some guidance would have helped me make better informed decisions at the time.

Not everyone looks forward to honing their sense of purpose. In team sessions there will be some eye rolling and arm crossing; some people are thinking “I’ve got better things to do” or “that’s for others in the room – I don’t need it”, and that’s fine, but you’d also be surprised how quickly they buy-in once you get started.

I vividly recall an employee who seemed disengaged at first disclosing how aimless his life felt and how excited he was to have a method for improving things. Not only that, hearing colleagues’ perspectives and getting to know each other better is valuable too. It doesn’t require over-sharing – let people go as far as they want and don’t push them further.

Some companies, like Unilever, do ‘purpose’ really well and develop raving fans. Every job they advertise gets way oversubscribed and working there is viewed as a trophy for people’s CV. According to former CEO, Paul Polman, they register ‘pride in company scores’ of 90 percent compared to a global average of 15 percent and their attrition rate is half that of any peer in any market they operate in.

You can help your people gain a greater sense of purpose by helping them reflect on their key goals in life, how that marries up with the work they do and the organisation / industry they do it in.

Your task is to work out how best to support them in that process, and you may be pleasantly surprised how little it costs compared to dealing with the consequences of sudden resignations or performance management.

Phil Preston helps individuals, teams and organisations decode purpose to improve their performance and impact. You can contact him via hello@philpreston.com.au

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Making Quiet Quitting Obsolete

How do you make quiet quitting obsolete? Being a purpose specialist I guess you’d expect me to say it’s all about clarity and implementation of purpose, and you’d be right!

When purpose is well executed it leads to energising and exciting work cultures that take quiet quitting out of play. The catch? They are hard to create, but once you have them in place, a little bit of ongoing attention is usually enough to sustain them.

 

 

Is quiet quitting new?

Did you know that before quiet quitting there was the Chinese equivalent of “lying flat“? They both describe a philosophy of doing the bare minimum in your job, either because you don’t care enough or because you don’t see the point in sacrificing quality of life outside of work for the lure of corporate ascension.

I’m sure you’ve worked with people who have checked out of their job …or never checked in to start with. You see it in most work environments and thanks to social media platforms we are seeing a revival tour of this practice.

The evidence suggests quiet quitting isn’t a new concept at all. Gallup data going back 20-years shows there’s little change in the “actively disengaged” portion of the workforce.

 

 

What are your options?

Location, skillset or other factors may limit your alternative employment options, in which case the challenge is to reframe your work experience. That can be hard if there are deep-seated problems with co-workers, managers or the organisation itself.

If you do have alternatives, though, then I don’t see why you’d want to hang around in a role that isn’t interesting or inspiring if there are better opportunities out there. Life is finite, why choose misery?

For executives, leaders and managers, your task is to brighten up the work experience to avert any enthusiasm (or is it apathy?) for quiet quitting, and a purpose-led approach provides the foundations you need.

 

 

Making quiet quitting obsolete

First of all, it’s about a positive mindset and thinking creatively rather than falling into a defensive state. Secondly, attaining a deeper understanding of purpose and they way it manifests in your work and life provides the key to a considered and powerful response.

It’s one thing to say “purpose is great” and another thing to actually understand what you are doing and making it happen. A purpose-led response requires an awareness of, and focus on, these 5 layers:

  1. Personal – the goals or sense of purpose you gain outside of work
  2. Professional – purpose derived from developing your career and craft
  3. Role – purpose vested in the day-to-day role you perform
  4. Team – the dynamic, culture and sense of achievement in your team
  5. Organisational – the purpose of your organisation or industry you’re in.
 
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Each of these 5 components takes time and skill to develop, however it’s a useful blueprint to work from. Do a quick self check-in now to gauge where you are at?

If these aspects are worked on and progress is made, then work is going to be a positive place where you and others can thrive. It doesn’t mean giving over your life to your employer – strong work cultures are built on quality (more than quantity) of human input.

If people around you don’t buy in to a purpose based approach, then you seriously have to ask whether they are doing themselves a disservice by being there? Other life choices may make more sense.

 

 

Next steps for you?

A purpose-led approach can make quiet quitting obsolete. However it requires the right level of focus from directors to executives to managers and frontline staff, plus a willingness to challenge the status quo.

The gains are hard won … and the rewards are transformational.

 

Phil Preston is a purpose and impact specialist. As a keynote speaker, facilitator, author and coach, he empowers positive change in the people, teams and organisations he works with. You can contact him via hello@philpreston.com.au

Copyright Phil Preston 2022, All rights reserved

Banner photo credit: Sander Sammy via unsplash.com

Busting 5 Myths About Finding Purpose in Your Work & Life

Are you interested in finding purpose in your work and life?

The disruptions of late may have prompted you to reflect on why you do what you do, and it’s unsettling if you’re drifting off course.

A business leader I interviewed recently noted: “If you’re not aligning your life by design, you get your life by default”. In other words, making progress against meaningful goals is incredibly satisfying.

Finding your purpose sounds like fun, but if you’re super-busy or weighed down by commitments, it might not be as straight forward as you’d hoped for. So, how do you navigate purpose?

Having helped people and businesses with purpose-based challenges for more than a decade, I’ve found there are five common myths that deserve busting:


Myth #1 – Purpose is about giving and volunteering

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who isn’t giving or volunteering in some form. Helping others is an expression of ‘higher purpose’, and for most of us it’s only part of the purpose ‘picture’, not the whole picture.

Purpose is ‘why’ you do something and, when asked, people come up with many interpretations of purpose in their lives, ranging from providing for their family through to feeling valued in their job, maximising their potential or doing something good for the environment. This illustrates how many dimensions there are to finding your purpose.

At face value, Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, has gone all-in on climate action, however I’d wager that even she is working towards other goals in her life.

Bust the myth by keeping an open mind about the scope of purpose in your life.


Myth #2 – I should resign and get a job with a charity

I once thought life was about earning good money so I could, hopefully, retire early and then give something back. This was fine until I found myself constantly thinking: Is this it? Is this my purpose in life? Do I really want to work in this industry until I retire?

Waiting for retirement seemed waaaaay too long!

You may be at a point of inflection where, despite some career or financial success, you fantasise about throwing it in and working for a charity … until you look at the job ads and realise you’d need to take a 70-80% pay cut. With regular bills, school fees and mortgage payments, forget it!

If you’re hostage to a certain lifestyle then you may be a ticking time bomb ready to explode.

Bust the myth by clarifying what purpose really means for you and then looking for the small tweaks that make a big difference.


Myth #3 – I must have a personal purpose statement

Simon Sinek is famous for his work on ‘finding your why’, however reaching for a personal purpose statement can be counterproductive. Harvard Business Review author, John Coleman, sums it up well:

“..most of us will not magically stumble upon a single purpose that makes everything we do worthwhile”

I know someone who knew their purpose at age 12. It took me 50-years to find mine; and then there are some who never do. Forcing the process and coming up short can lead to mild depression or despair, and research has found purpose anxiety is a ‘thing’.

If you do have a purpose statement, that’s great! If you don’t have one, that’s great too!

Bust the myth by not stressing about a personal purpose statement. Just don’t!


Myth #4 – I must help everyone in every way I can

Have you ever given too much of yourselves to other causes? It can undermine your wellbeingeffectiveness and lead to burnout.

You need to be doing well yourself in order to help others. I’ll admit there’s a fine line here: it’s not a reason to disengage from everything you do, however if you lead a busy and complex life then you need to make wise choices. It’s about being purpose-smart, not working harder.

Gaining clarity of purpose and backing it with an action plan is liberating because it gives you a solid and justifiable basis for saying ‘no’ to peripheral requests.

Bust the myth by creating a purpose plan.


Myth #5 – I’m insignificant in the whole scheme of things

You may feel insignificant, disempowered or struggling to see how you can make a difference to problems like climate change. That’s a common reaction.

You have unique attributes, skills, knowledge and spheres of influence – the trick is to leverage what’s at your disposal. It’s about shifting from a mindset of making a difference to maximising the difference you make.

It’s quite exciting to sit down and map out the possibilities.

Bust the myth by identifying the key strengths that you have and those you can develop to increase your impact.


Finding purpose

If you are questioning your ‘why’, I hope you find these myth-busting tips useful. Meaning and purpose is so importantin our lives, and yet do we ever give it the attention it deserves?

Create space for reflection and be prepared to revisit your plan often – it will need to evolve as your circumstances change. Purpose is a never-ending journey that’s immensely satisfying when you know you’re making progress.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you well on your purpose journey!

PS. You might like to download my Meaning & Purpose Guide to help you take control of your work and life journey.

Phil Preston is a speaker, facilitator and coach specialising in purpose discovery and strategies. He’s the author of Connecting Profit with Purpose, founder of The Business Purpose Project, host of Talking Purpose in Business & Life and the co-host of Corporate Conversations on Purpose. Phil can be contacted via hello@philpreston.com.au

Copyright Phil Preston 2022, All rights reserved

Banner photo credit: Bruce Mars via unsplash.com

What does Ash Barty’s retirement have to do with purpose?

It’s hard to identify a public figure – sporting or otherwise – who Australian’s love more than Ash Barty. She role models hard work, honesty, humility, integrity, transparency and the list goes on.

Yes, she has many outstanding tournament titles to her name, but it’s more about the way she goes about it. Like any ‘brand’, it takes hard work and consistency to create such an image, exemplified in her media conference earlier today.

So what does her shock retirement at the ripe old age of 25(!) have to do with purpose? I don’t know her so I can’t say anything for sure, however her interviews and statements provide some clues.

Purpose is about aims and goals, and meaning is about the significance of those goals. Her Wimbledon victory felt like a major milestone and then the Australian Open was an opportunity to reward herself, her team and her fans. She’d lost the passion and drive to keep on achieving at the highest level, and that drove her decision to retire.

There are two key dimensions to purpose: intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Earning a living, attaining good health and wellbeing, finding the right job or being excited about jumping out of bed every day are examples of intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivators are more about giving, helping and supporting others. When we do it we get good vibes and feelings, however it stems from an intention and focus on others gaining rewards.

What I see in Ash is someone who is no longer thriving in tennis, and looking to thrive in other aspects of life. Spending more time with family and friends – not to mention a pending marriage – is a shift to a new type of intrinsic motivation for her.

We also see a shift toward extrinsic motivations, or ‘higher purpose’, with her stated desire to encourage Aboriginal and indigenous kids in sport, for example.

Purpose is never a fixed or static thing, it evolves with us and as the world changes around us.

I sense that we will hang on her sporting wins and successes in the short term, and over time we will come to realise there’s a lot more to the Ash Barty story, and that she has done what very few high achievers manage to do – to go out on their terms when they are on top.

What impact does Ash Barty have on you? Has it prompted you to reflect on your direction in life?

I invite you to add your thoughts.

Phil Preston is a purpose development expert who helps people and organisations maximise their impact. You can find out more on his speaker website, or visit the business purpose project.

You might like to follow him on LinkedInTwitter or make contact via hello@philpreston.com.au

What is Purpose and Do Your People Have Enough of It?

The global challenges we face are increasing people’s desire to make a difference and act with a greater sense of purpose, however for many it feels out of reach because they lead busy and complex lives. Furthermore, if they feel fatigued, burnt out or disengaged from their work they’ll be more prone to consider career and lifestyle alternatives, leading to the risk of abrupt resignation.

Helping employees gain a greater sense of meaning and purpose gives them incentive to stay – but how can employers provide that support in a way that’s sincere, effective and non-invasive? To answer this question, we need to understand purpose and the different forms it takes.

Take a moment to think about what purpose means for you in your life?

From my work, I’ve found that a group of 10 people will usually come up with 10 different answers, however their answers will fit into one of four categories that I’ll outline further on. These categories will help employers form responses that reduce disengagement and resignation risk.

Meaning & Purpose

Can you imagine a life of constant pleasure? A life without uncertainty, distress or pain? Intuitively, our achievements would count for less if they came all too easily. Psychologist, Paul Bloom, notes “the most satisfying lives are those which involve challenge, fear and struggle”, otherwise why would people choose to run marathons or spend weeks in miserable conditions climbing mountains? If the pursuit of a goal requires us, for example, to develop new skills, overcome setbacks and be persistent, then reaching for that goal will have far more significance and meaning.

Dr Lisa Williams of UNSW points to studies where people with higher levels of meaning in their lives have lower incidence of chronic disease, divorce and loneliness, and increased health, wellbeing and social connectivity. Global research by Aaker et al has found that meaning plays a bigger role in happiness for people on lower incomes, hypothesising it’s because the struggle to attain basic needs is greater.

Purpose is more about direction and focus. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines purpose as “the feeling of being determined to do or achieve something” or “the aim or goal of a person”, and goes on to define higher purpose as “a more meaningful reason to live, work etc.” 

Therefore, you can do something with purpose or be purposeful in the moment, and aim for a higher purpose in life, which is when we focus on helping others.

Auschwitz survivor, Dr Victor Frankl, noticed that those who survived had a purpose, a reason to live such as project, goal or relationship. And Greta Thunberg reports she generally sat alone at home with an eating disorder before finding meaning and purpose in her climate crusade.

For completeness, the term happiness is aligned with feelings of contentedness, satisfaction and fulfilment. It is actually your own assessment of your achievements in life. Dr Richard Morris from the University of Sydney points out that being happy in the moment is an emotion, and not the same as the concept of happiness which accrues over time.

In short, meaning is about the value, significance and importance of the things you do and purpose is about direction and goals. Pursuing a higher purpose is about helping others and less about self-reward, and happiness is your own view of how well you’ve done.

Four Types of Purposeful Activities

After analysing a range of works on this topic I still struggled to explain the relationship between people’s everyday actions and their sense of meaning and purpose. Furthermore, I felt it should be universally accessible and not just for a privileged few. It shouldn’t rely on an individual being wealthy, attaining a higher educational level or having the leeway to take a year off to meditate in a mountain cave.

With this in mind, I reviewed workshop attendee responses to arrive at the realisation that there are four types of purposeful activities:

  1. Living – Having a good quality-of-life with access to food, clothing, shelter, safety, employment, healthcare, education etc.
  2. Wellbeing – Life has good moments as you experience pleasure and joy, social connection, belonging and an absence of distress.
  3. Thriving – Being positive and excited about life, using your strengths to great effect, living your values and achieving goals.
  4. Giving – Contributing to something bigger than yourself by proactively helping others and making a difference.

Reflect again on the question posed earlier about what purpose means for you? Where does your answer fit in this framework? In the ideal world we’d have all four levels covered but the reality is that life often gets in the way!

One person in a workshop group saw their purpose as providing for their family, which correlates to the ‘living’ category. Another wanted to feel valued in their job (‘wellbeing’); another wanted to feel motivated to take on each day (‘thriving’) and another wanted to help the environment through their work (‘giving’). These categories are not sequential – meaning that you don’t need to tick the ‘living’ box in order to reach the other levels.

In listening to interviews with people who lived through the 1930s Great Depression in Australia, I was struck by the consistency of their stories. They said that, although basic living was hard, they were the best times of their lives! Why? Because they had to help each other and the connections, friendships and bonds they built became treasured. It’s proof that a higher sense of meaning and purpose can be achieved even when our basic quality of life is strained.

The Shift Employers Must Make

The good news is that there are measures employers can take to increase the ‘stickiness’ of their workers by helping them gain a greater sense of meaning and purpose – even if they lead busy and complex lives. It will require flexibility because some people see their job as a means to an end and focus on purposeful activities that are outside of work, whereas others may strongly align their work with purpose.

According to KPMG, 86 per cent of CEOs say that purpose is critical in forming a competitive employee value proposition, therefore it’s reasonable to assume that employers who can deliver what employees want will be well placed in the war for talent. Larry Culp, CEO of GE told Fortune Media:

“Increasingly, recruitment and retention is about more than the corporate whole. It’s about position and purpose…There was a point in time when people said, ‘I want to work for GE.’ Today, people are more focused on addressing climate, or being in health care, or in aviation.”

Employers should put more effort into finding out what purpose means for their people in order to devise effective ways of partnering with them. Otherwise, employees may see their firm as just another employer – a contractual relationship – rather than a valued partner, heightening the risk of voluntary turnover.

This happened to me 14 years ago. My job was interesting, challenging and well paid, but I’d been on that career path for a while and had a personal crisis when I realised I didn’t want to get stuck on those ‘train tracks’ forever. When I told my boss I was leaving there was no amount of money that would have convinced me to stay.

What I lacked back then was perspective and process, a way of framing my situation and seeing the full range of options available. I just panicked and left. In hindsight I now know that clarifying what purpose means for us at a given point in time and being supported in our pursuit of it is invaluable, and it’s a very cost effective way for employers to reduce disengagement and turnover risk.

If you’d like to collect your thoughts and contribute to a better overall understanding of meaning and purpose, I invite you to do this mini-assessment.

About the Author

Phil Preston is a purpose development expert who helps people and organisations maximise their impact. You can find out more on his speaker website, or visit the business purpose project.

You might like to follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter or make contact via hello@philpreston.com.au