How to Inspire a Sense of Purpose in the Workplace

When I look at today’s business world, it is clear to me that productivity, engagement, and success are tied more than ever to having a sense of purpose. We were already headed that prior to the pandemic, so it stands to reason that increasingly, individuals and teams need to feel a sense of purpose tied to something bigger than their daily work tasks. 

These days, people are demanding more out of their jobs, and they want their work to align with their values, beliefs and overall goals. And, for the most part, they want to know that what they are doing in the workplace has a positive impact on the world outside the office.

When a person begins working for an organization, they are focused on the positive aspects of the work. But once the “honeymoon” period passes, they might become disenchanted with the day-to-day grind and can feel somewhat disconnected from something more meaningful. Some individuals might not feel valued as someone who contributes to the overall success of the organization.

For the most part, individuals want to feel like they are having an impact and making a positive difference in the work that they do. And it is up to leaders to instill a sense of purpose and meaning into the work experience – which is what leaders are being called to do in a much more profound way than ever before.

The Happiness Factor: Employees and Customers

I like to think of "happiness" as another way of saying "well-being" because well-being encompasses everything a leader has to take into consideration. This article by Harvard Business Review demonstrates the connection between happy employees and happy customers. It may seem obvious that this would be the case. However, I want to remind leaders who do not take employee well-being seriously enough that not only will they suffer significant losses in productivity and communication, but the cost of employee churn can be exponential.

How to Manifest Meaning in the Workplace

As a leader, if you are not in tune with your employees and really understand them as people, you are risking not only your reputation but the success of the organization in the process. I want you to think about the following action steps. In fact, take a step back to look at the way you lead as it relates to what today’s workforce demands. 

  • Operating with Outdated Leadership Principles: Back in the day when I worked for large organizations, I had some not-so-positive experiences at the hands of leaders who were more interested in their own success and perceived power vs. understanding what we needed to do our jobs to the best of our abilities. As I have shared in previous blogs, it is time to put aside the old command/control style of leadership as it simply has no place in the organizations of today. Plus, your career as a leader will also be limited and you may find yourself being phased out with the old ways of thinking.

  • Empower Every Employee as an Individual: No matter what role your employees have, never forget that they are the backbone of your business. Without them, you simply cannot function as an organization and gain great market share with loyal customers. Spending quality time with each and everyone to find out what makes them “tick” can help you help them excel at their jobs. Take care of your people and they will take care of your business.

  • Exude a Sense of Genuine Care & Empathy: I do not have to tell you there are numerous strategies on how to engage your employees, but what really connects people as people is when we show genuine care and empathy for one another. Ask them how things are going at home? How are they managing a busy schedule and their family needs? What do they want to achieve in their careers, and how can you help them get there? Most organizations are in the people business because it's your people who are running your business and delivering for your customers. Take care of them in the most genuinely caring and empathetic way, and watch your bottom line soar.

What People Really Want out of Their Jobs

A sense of freedom is also important to today’s workforce. The feeling of freedom is closely related to meaning and purpose, as well. When people feel like they are in charge of their schedules and have the ability to maintain work-life balance, there is a much more significant “buy in.”

Moreover, employees want to feel able to self-manage. They value constructive feedback and appreciate structure, but they dislike being micromanaged by their leaders. Of course, striking the right balance can be tricky and efforts by leaders to empower employees this way can pay off considerably.

Leaders have the power to give employees what they want, but they must know how to go about doing it the right way. Additionally, you can:

Learn What Makes People Proud

Ask your people about past projects and accomplishments that have made them feel proud and confident in their abilities. Where did they struggle? How did they overcome those struggles? Determine through your conversations where the work intersects with their personal passions and use your findings to inspire and engage your people.

Focus on the Present; Ask About the Past and Future

Remember — happiness happens in the present moment but meaning comes from an ability to see oneself as part of a story that has a past and future. Get to know the stories your people are “writing” about themselves, where they’ve come from and where they want to go. But focus your advice and direction on what they can do right now. 

Leaders Also Need Meaning and Purpose

While you are focused on creating a workplace that inspires and engages your people, it’s easy to forget that you need something deeper out of your work to perform your best as a leader.

You need to walk the walk and talk the talk. Consider how you are performing in your role as a leader: Are you feeling uninspired and disengaged? Are you feeling a disconnect between your personal and professional lives? Some soul searching may be in order.

My Door is Always Open!

Today’s leaders need to inspire and engage in different ways than they have done in the past. I’m curious to hear what your leadership journey has been like, and particularly since the pandemic began. I want to hear from you, so please feel free to contact me via phone at 1-855-871-3374 or via email at

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