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5 Considerations for Leaders in a Purpose-Driven Workplace

By 3p Contributor

By Drew Bonfiglio

The word and concept of leadership is hard to nail down, much-less the practice in today's ever-evolving, increasingly purpose-driven workplace.

In 0.51 seconds, Google found 751,000,000 results for the word “leadership." The Wikipedia page for leadership has 99 reference notes. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

There exist authoritative, democratic, delegative, collaborative, authentic, coaching, coercive, pace setting, idealistic, pragmatic and -- in my words -- responsible leaders. The purpose of this post is to help you, whatever kind of leader you are, not feel overwhelmed, but to just consider a few simple ways you can better lead a purpose-driven workforce.

The modern day workplace is being inundated with millennials who see a gap between what business’ purpose should be and what it is perceived to be. Being a leader in this changing environment is not a simple task. You can position yourself for a better shot at success by considering the following:

1. Value your purpose-oriented employees

These are the people who are really invested in what your organization is doing. Your business is their “why." Recognize, reward, encourage, and invest in them. It will pay off. NYU and Imperative recently produced a study of the U.S. workforce and found that purpose-oriented employees have a 20 percent longer tenure and are 47 percent more likely to be promoters of their employers than peers.
28 percent of the 150 million-member U.S. workforce defines the role of work in their lives primarily as a source of personal fulfillment and a way to help others. These purpose-oriented workers, roughly 42 million strong, not only seek out purpose in their work, they create it and as a result, outperform the rest of the workforce.

2. Be honest with yourself about the organization’s priorities

If you look at this 2x2 and are honest with yourself, where would you put your company? Your ability to successfully lead a team and retain purpose-driven talent depends on the organization’s profile as well as your leadership and managerial skills. If you find yourself on the left side, bottom half, or both, it’s time to think about whether or not your organization is actually purpose-driven or just giving lip service. Stay tuned for future posts on the 15 tensions of the modern day workplace where I’ll get into these and more.

3. Don’t get caught in the “millennials trap”

There are lots of people -- millennials and otherwise -- who care deeply about finding meaning at work and the company’s investment in them, the community, and the environment. The NYU/Imperative study found that people over 55 are more likely to be purpose-oriented. Other studies have show millennials may care more. Just because we talk more about purpose more as it pertains to young people, we would be making a huge mistake to forget about the other around two-thirds of the workforce who are not millennials. I talk more about how to leverage this group here.

4. Invest in manager-employee relationships

If you’re a manager, the level of employee engagement is highly dictated by you. Gallup found that 70 percent of employee engagement variance was driven by an individual’s direct manager. There is a long conversation to be had about how to do this. For now, awareness is the first step. If you manage people, you matter. A lot. And even more in a purpose-driven organization. Imagine a project or even personal value that you are incredibly passionate about. Now imagine that your boss doesn’t “get it” at all. You feel like you’re running uphill every day. Eventually you get tired and start looking for an easier jog. Don't increase the incline for your team members.

Bonus: If you’re thinking even further ahead, check out this blog from one of Emzingo’s interns about Gen Z.

5. Make the connection between every job and the company’s purpose explicit and visible

How does the average employee know how her/his job is related to the overarching purpose of the company?

Let’s start simple. Tell them. Make it obvious. Emphasize it in onboarding like Zappos. Share success stories from the field by highlighting success stories in staff meetings. You may find some additional inspiration from the CEO of RedHat. Just don’t assume that people will get it.

These isn't a magic bullet to make an individual a superb leader of purpose-driven employees. You can, however, start to move the needle with these few simple steps.

Images courtesy of Emzingo

Drew Bonfiglio is co-founder and managing partner of Emzingo. Born in Jamestown, New York, Andrew has had the opportunity to live and work on 5 continents. During this time, he discovered his motivation and energy come from improving processes, and working in teams with inspiring people. He is obsessed with unlocking potential in individuals and businesses. At Emzingo, aside from managing the internal processes he supports Field Partner Development and Curriculum Design. Andrew graduated from Cornell’s College of Engineering and holds an MBA from IE Business School in Madrid.

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