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Engagement and Purpose are linked

October 1, 2014

Mid-life crisis“I’m not enjoying myself” “Need something exciting” “Is this all there is?” “I’m bored” “We can’t hold on to employees” “Our employees don’t seem engaged” “We’re doing everything we can but, staff attrition is high” “We are losing middle managers”

Engagement. The big conversation today. Whether for organizations or individuals. Whether at work or in personal life. More people than ever before are disengaged. I was too. Through personal experience and conversations with over 100 professionals at a CXO level, who are dealing with similar challenges I realized that we needed a different approach. For ourselves and for organizations.

The Context

When we start out in life, we are driven by our dreams to earn money, be financially independent. Every role has new learning and gives a chance to test ourselves, we’re challenged and find constant approval. However, by the time we reach middle management, our primary purpose i.e. financial stability/independence is either achieved or within reach. Role changes become fewer and further apart. As an outcome, we begin to miss the activity that used to keep our minds engaged. At the same time, the initial purpose is no longer relevant and we haven’t realized that.

Organizations too, are stuck in their paradigms and don’t realize this emotional transition that employees go through.

English: Stillness by Eckhart Tolle, on a Park...

English: Stillness by Eckhart Tolle, on a Park bench plaque, facing Sacramento River, Redding CA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A working solution for the self.

Over time and exploration, I realized that the key to breaking out of this state of ennui and constant dis-satisfaction with the present was to raise levels of self-awareness and engage in a re-purposing conversation.

Step 1. is to acknowledge that the problem is not outside of yourself but something that lies within. That it has to do with what engages you or excites you. But even more important to understand that the world changes and that what worked for you before may not be working now.

Step 2. Is to realize that now that the primary purpose is irrelevant you are anchorless and need a new anchor. One that is more consciously derived than the existential purpose you “inherited” at the outset. Re-Articulating your purpose is key.

Step 3. Identifying the mediums that will help you live the purpose. Identifying the possibilities that your purpose can unleash and the tangible impact they will have. Identifying the personal changes you will need to make in order to achieve the purpose. Identifying the constraints within which you will work and seeing them as challenges to be overcome, as the path that you must travel. This is the key.

A suggested way forward for organizations.

Organizations must recognize the above and redefine the employee value proposition via rejigging the conversation they have with employees.

1. Move from performance conversations to purpose conversations

2. Enable employees to articulate their personal purpose and possibility and enmesh it with organizational purpose and possibility. The organization is the platform, the stage, where the employee can achieve their desires.

I have the privilege to work with a global FMCG-like organization that does exactly this and they have found tremendous success with engagement and achievement over a 6 year period that this process has been in place.

How do I redefine my purpose?

For self-awareness, start by reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

Relook at the 360 feedback results you received – what do they say about you?

Seek feedback from friends.

Reflect on what makes you happy, where you find joy and satisfaction.

Explore – do new things.

Give of yourself – find people who need help and support them.

If you have a skill, teach it to others, you’d be surprised how many others need what you have.

In doing all this, you will open up avenues that will help you redefine what gives you joy and that will be the start point of helping you define/redefine your purpose. Don’t hasten the process, there’s no telling how long it will take. All I can say is, the more you do different things, the quicker it will come to you.


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