Enjoy this excerpt from our new book, Healthy Leadership.

Cheryl Johnson was a client of ours when she was a leader at Fossil, a watch manufacturer and lifestyle brand, and then at Ulta Beauty. Now she is chief human resources officer for Paylocity. A discussion Lee had with her illustrates the importance of team purpose.

They talked about how connecting to meaningful work ignites a personal passion to go the extra mile. Cheryl was reflecting on one of her first jobs during college—as a dishwasher in a hospital. Interestingly, she didn’t see her job as that of only a dishwasher.

Most people would wallow in the mundane task of washing dishes, but Cheryl’s boss painted a picture of something much more significant. On the first day of work, he told Cheryl that her department’s purpose was “to help ensure a clean, healthy environment so patients could heal as fast as possible and go home to their families.” And it was Cheryl’s role to contribute to that purpose by keeping the dishes clean. Wouldn’t you be more passionate about washing dishes if that was your purpose?

No matter how large or small your team, healthy leaders define a compelling purpose for their teams. The most important motivational question a leader can answer for his/her team is, “Why am I doing this?” Sometimes articulating the answer is difficult because it requires a deep look at your business.

For example, at one customer call center, the purpose is to provide a fair solution and brighten the day of every caller. A technology department’s purpose is to improve personal productivity. No matter what it is, a compelling purpose must create positive meaning in employees’ lives.

You must also keep your compelling purpose real and relevant, since people can commit only to what they understand. A purpose is your team’s bridge to a brighter, more connected tomorrow.

Healthy leaders build bridges between each job and the team’s purpose. Before you spring into action, keep in mind that a project goal is not the same as a purpose. Neither is a financial target nor a strategic plan.

Most (non-sales) employees will not get emotionally charged up about a 10 percent net profit, a 20 percent return on investment, or a 30 percent increase in market share. A true purpose is a reason to be excited about getting up and going to work every day.

Healthy Leadership Book