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January 24, 2017

#MTtalk: The Power of Purpose in the Workplace

Yolande Conradie


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A Story of Purpose

Desmond Doss, a young American, wanted to serve his country as a soldier during the Second World War. In 1942 he was drafted into the army for basic training.

During training, Desmond refused to handle a weapon. When his officers realized that he didn't want to bear arms, they tried to send him to a conscientious objectors' camp. Desmond opposed their every effort to get him discharged. He wanted to be a soldier, he just didn't want to take lives - he wanted to save them.

Eventually, Desmond ended up in the medical corps and in April 1944 he was sent to Japan with the 77th Division. Their destination was the Maeda Escarpment on Okinawa Island.

Their very first contact with the enemy was an exceptionally bloody battle. When the rest of the soldiers fell back, Desmond, unarmed, stayed behind on the battlefield looking for wounded men. Every time he found one, he dragged him to the edge of the escarpment and lowered the wounded soldier to the support staff below. And every time he turned around and crawled back onto the battlefield, he repeated the words, "Please let me find one more. Please let me find one more."

Consequently, Desmond's sole purpose became "finding one more." During and after every bloody battle he crawled around extremely dangerous terrain and looked for men to save. In the process he was wounded a number of times, but never gave up. Over a period of three weeks, he saved 75 fellow soldiers including one of the officers that wanted him discharged two years prior.

As a result, Desmond Doss was the first conscientious objector in US history to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery on the battlefield - all because of his unwavering determination to "find one more".

(A movie named "Hacksaw Ridge" was recently released documenting his story.)

During our #MTtalk Twitter chat on Friday, we discussed "The Power of Purpose in the Workplace". We talked about the importance of understanding the wider significance of your work, how this knowledge changes your behavior, and how it can help you to become more successful.

Here are the questions we asked and some responses from our participants:

Questions about "The Power of Purpose in the Workplace"

Question 1: What does "working with purpose" mean to you?

@sayitforwardnow: “To me, ‘working with purpose’ means having the greater good in mind in everything I do.”

@tweetgayusri: “Working with purpose means working with intention and working mindfully.”

@hopegovind: “There should be a reason, an aim and meaning behind everything you do, or else you are never able to give your 100%.”

Question 2: What are the benefits to an organization when employees have a strong sense of purpose?

From the answers of our participants, it seems clear that having a sense of purpose in the workplace increases efficiency, morale and motivation.

@BrainBlenderTec: “I have to say that if the whole team has purpose the ground is covered quickly, as everyone picks up the slack when someone falters.”

@JKatzaman: “When all employees have a strong sense of purpose, things get done sooner, more efficiently and right the first time.”

Question 3: What is the effect on the workplace when employees do not have a sense of purpose?

@BNBBooks: “Without that common purpose, everyone is just in it ‘for the paycheck’. Show up, do the work, go home.”

@PG_pmp: “No ownership, lack of responsibility.”

@PramodDrSolanki: “Mechanical approach to work, low engagement, excuses for things not getting done, high attrition, poor customer care."

Question 4: How will you know when you are working with purpose?

Although it's different for everybody, it's also similar as you can see from the answers below:

@Singh_Vandana: “I'll look forward to the work week. TGIM... TGIM!"

(Thanks for teaching us about ‘Thank Goodness It’s Monday,’ Vandana!)

@GodaraAR: “When results are tangible and every morning I feel like coming to work.”

@MicheleDD_MT: “My energy is limitless. Opportunities are everywhere. I am focused, happy and determined to succeed.”

Question 5: How does your purpose influence your behavior?

@70mq: “It has a big impact; I am more disciplined and have more structure in my day.”

@WonderPix: “Purpose can fill the gas tank and keep you motivated, engaged and moving toward goals.”

Question 6: How can we create purpose at work?

@MikeBarzacchini: “Make your purpose public. Post it. Share it. Talk about it. Write it. Rewrite it. Remind others and most importantly yourself.”

@alberMoire: “You need to share your ‘WHY’ and embrace it. When there is a ‘why’, purpose comes along.”

@OrganicLeaderVB: “You can create purpose at work through daily intentional acts/activities that promote voice, choice & shared vision.”

Question 7: How might purpose and engagement be connected?

@sistadahealer: “With a sense of purpose you will be very engaged and motivated to do all you can. It creates a sense of fulfillment.”

@CaptRajeshwar: “It is like the wheels of a train on their tracks: they cannot run without each other.”

Question 8: How do you give your employees a sense of purpose?

@amypen64: “By showing the employees the bigger picture and where they fit in.”

@Midgie_MT: “Valuing and appreciating what they do. Giving feedback. Reiterating how they contribute towards the company’s purpose/goals.”

Question 9: How do you build a purposeful culture within your team/organization?

@Dwyka_Consult: “A good start in building a culture of purpose, is to learn how to make everybody feel important, wanted and valued.”

@jikster2009: “Agree a common vision and related values that will underpin all personal goals and objectives, be supportive and communicate well.”

Question 10: How can having purpose at work help you to be more successful?

@ellyambrose: “Because there is focus: knowing which direction to take, when and how.”

We end off with these wise words from @JKatzaman:

"A workforce with a purpose is low maintenance. You spend more time making tweaks, rather than fixing fundamental problems."

Do you know what your purpose is?

Next time, on #MTtalk...

Learning at work helps us to feel like we're continually developing, so it can help us to feel like we're progressing towards our goals. However, different people learn in different ways. How do you prefer to learn at work? Please cast your vote in our Twitter poll here.

In our next #MTtalk on Friday 3 February, we'll be asking the question, "How Do You Like to Learn?" We'd like you to tell us how and when you like learning at work. Do you prefer a more self-directed approach or do you prefer a formal learning setup? Please join us at 1pm EST / 6pm GMT.

To participate in our chat about different ways of learning, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “All Tweets” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. To join the conversation, simply include #MTtalk in your tweet and it will show up in the chat feed.


In the meantime, here are some resources about having a sense of purpose at work:

Working With Purpose

Building a Culture of Purpose in Your Organization

Helping Your People Find Purpose in Their Work

The GRPI Model

Mission and Vision Statements

Coaching to Explore Beliefs and Motives

In Flow

What Are Your Values?

Winning by Giving

Understanding Workplace Values

McClelland's Human Motivation Theory

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4 comments on “#MTtalk: The Power of Purpose in the Workplace”

  1. Mindtools is my go to for learning. I look forward to each chat and the resources on their website. They provide a wealth of information for me to create learning for the leadership class that I teach. All the comments made are thought provoking and gives me the learning that I need to stay on track. Great Job!

    1. We're glad to hear you're enjoying the site as well as the #MTtalk chats, Amy. It's great to get input from all our chat participants every fortnight - that's how we all help and learn from one another.

  2. I agree with Amy Pennington. I love Mind Tools I learn alot, and it also confirms that I am not thinking crazy about different issues in the work place and how they affect employee moral and productivity.

    1. Thanks Kay, we appreciate that. We're aware that people sometimes feel alone and/or isolated when dealing with issues at work. You're right, it restores a sense of normality if we can connect with other people from around the globe who have either experienced those issues or at least understand them. And thanks for sharing your perspectives with us in the #MTtalk chats!

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