Meaningful Contribution

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, he asserted that employees wanted to know their work was meaningful. He called the sign Irrelevance. People want to know that their work is important. But, more than that, they also need to know how it’s important and to whom.

How does their contribution fit the organization’s goals and objectives?  In smaller companies this may tend to be less pervasive and complex but it may exist nevertheless.  Individual contributors can fail to understand how their unique contribution fits into the organizations goals and objectives.  Many technology people can’t connect the dots from what they do to how the company makes money.  You can help your teammates by helping find what I call the Apex of Purpose for your team.

The Apex of Purpose is an idea based on the highest and best good that comes from your team’s effort.  There’s an old Dilbert cartoon where the boss described the teams purpose as

making second rate products to sell to idiots so our executives can afford trophy wives.

Many times you may have made similar observations in joking.  It’s easy for people “down” the org chart to criticize people at the top.  Sometimes it seems like they don’t really know what they’re doing.  And besides, it’s always easier to criticize people you don’t know well.

The cold reality is that your team is influenced by your mood, your attitude and the importance you place on their job.  You help your team take their job more seriously by elevating your own thoughts about your team’s purpose.  You’re the champion of your team.  No one in the company will think better of them than you do!

Immediately, you can:

  1. Carefully think through the highest and best reason for your team’s existence.
  2. Begin to informally discuss your thoughts openly with your teammates.  Get their feedback.
  3. Notice the most favorable words and how members react to the ideas presented.
  4. Present your best thoughts to your boss.  Get their feedback as well.  Make sure the two of you are in agreement.

In a couple of weeks, you’ll have something that you and your manager agree is the highest and best purpose for your team.  If possible, create some material or develop something that helps solidify your team’s purpose statement in the minds of your teammates.  The more clear you are about this idea, and the more compelling you are in helping your teammates appreciate the purpose, the better chance you have of helping them voluntarily elevate their performance just through their attitude alone.

Also, feel free to comment on other ideas and the purpose statements you create.  If possible even let us know how you think the exercise goes for you and your team.  You can make a difference in your team’s performance by thinking highly of your team’s mission and their indivual contribution to that mission.


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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Patte Michel  |  23 May 2009  |  Reply

This is so true – “connect the dots!” We have just gone live with our SAP implementation and although we have on a regular basis communicated the benefits, people still question why so many resources (people and $$) were on the team and why they have to do all this extra work, Relevance is key – and I need to make sure my next communication to the business associates better connects them to that point. Still thinking how…

Mike Henry  |  23 May 2009  |  Reply


Thanks for the comment. One idea for your present situation is to remind the business people that the argument about resource allocation would be considerably different if you failed. You might even add a sidebar showing the cost over time or the cost of success versus the cost of failure over time. After-the-fact criticism is considerably different when you achieve your goals because many people just HAVE to criticize something. If you fail, the criticism would be VERY different. On one project I did, the system has persisted through two asset sales so 3 companies have used the same system that the first company paid for. When you do something right, it lasts.

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