To capture the hearts of our team and ignite their passion, we must meet one of their most basic psychological needs – to contribute to something bigger than a job, to find true meaning in their work.

Picture this scenario: Three people were crushing rocks side by side on a construction job. When they were asked, “What is your job?” the first person answered, “My job is to do what I am told for eight hours a day so I can get a check.” The second person replied, “My job is to crush rocks.” The third person said, “My job is to build a cathedral.”

Which of these three people do you think would be the happiest, most productive and go the extra mile? No doubt the third person, who understood his job was far greater than just crushing rocks. He understood he was contributing to a purpose greater than his own efforts.

All of us are in search of a clear and driving purpose for our lives; we want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. The world of work offers a great opportunity for people to connect with a purpose. The reality is that people care less about working for a company and much more about working for a compelling cause.

Without a purpose, your employees are just putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be. A team without a purpose is a team without passion. Your team members may achieve short-term results, but they won’t have the heart to go the distance.

A purpose is your team’s bridge to a brighter tomorrow…and you have to build it! It is not a project goal, financial target or strategic plan. Your employees won’t get emotionally charged about a “10% net profit,” a “20% return on investment” or a “30% increase in market share.” A compelling purpose is a reason to be excited about getting up and going to work every day.

A purpose can come in all varieties – perhaps it is to help others, to make the world a better place, to innovate or to win. For example, Disney’s purpose is “to make dreams come true.” Coke worked diligently to develop its purpose: to put a Coke within reach of every person on Earth.

Pepsi’s purpose is to “beat Coke!” Your organization’s real purpose may not be apparent at first glance. For instance, a company that distributes building products to homebuilders may not seem to have a compelling cause; but a deeper look reveals that they “help make the American dream a reality.” That’s a cause worth working for!

Be bold. Step back and look at the big picture. Think of how your team improves conditions for others. Your purpose should answer the question, “What difference are we making?” It should stir the emotions.

For example, a customer call center may have a purpose to brighten the day of each and every caller. An information technology department’s cause could be to improve personal productivity. For a purchasing department, it might be to ensure that all company products are made with the best raw materials available.

Engage your team by asking them how their jobs relate to your team’s purpose. Some questions you might pose include:

  • “How does our purpose make you feel?” (If you hear responses like proud, important, connected, helpful or like a winner, then you’re on the right track.)
  • “Does our purpose make you look at your job differently?”
  • “Do our roles, procedures, resources, skills and priorities support our ability to achieve our purpose?”
  • “What can you change or do differently to better support our purpose?”
  • “What can I change or do differently to better support our purpose?”

Great leaders don’t depend on chance, they lead on purpose.

For practical tools on how to engage the minds and hearts of your team, check out the rapid-read book, Passionate Performance.