I didn’t like being out in the cold in the winter. But there were many things I did like about growing up on a farm. I could look behind the tractor after I plowed a field and see what I had accomplished. I could look at the milk can and see the milk after I milked the cow. I could see a full barn after I hauled hay all day.
I knew the purpose of plowing the field, milking the cow, and hauling the hay. And I felt a connection to that purpose and a sense of accomplishment. I felt like what I did counted—that I mattered that day.
Contrast that to work in organizational life. It’s so easy to work a day or even a week and often feel like you’re further behind than when you started. That zaps a person’s energy and zeal for the job. The reason is because people need to feel like they’re contributing to some purpose that matters. If we cannot see how we contribute, we don’t feel like we matter. To be optimistic and highly productive, people need a clear vision of a better future and how they impact it meaningfully. Otherwise, they die a slow, painful death in our 21st century organizations.
Working in an effective organization is like time on the farm. At the end of the day, week or year, you accomplish something, know the purpose for it and feel a strong connection to that purpose. When the individual’s purpose is aligned with the organization’s purpose, there is very high morale and low turnover. Working in a weak organization feels the opposite—no feeling of accomplishment, purpose, or connection to what matters.
For more insightful and meaningful stories from Leon Drennan’s new book, Good King/Bad King, click here.