I have always admired the rituals and connection that people in the United States military share. I had a unique experience as a child, because my father was in the military and my birthday is Veterans Day (and no, that wasn’t planned). That means most birthdays I spent at Veterans Day ceremonies and taking pictures with fighter jets and submarines. Despite those glitzy elements, hearing the Veterans’ stories was my favorite part. Every time I asked Veterans about their service, despite the hardships and sacrifices, their eyes often lit up. They would tell stories about their purpose, and their comrades, and their experiences. I’ve reflected a lot on that over the years – especially going into the human capital/people strategy field.
So I have to ask: How many of your employees’ eyes would light up talking about being on your team? Are your employees connected to the purpose? Are they emotionally moved by what you stand for? Do they feel connected with each other?
We all crave connection – whether we admit it or not. For many, we get this outside of the office. We ride Harleys, or religiously follow an NFL team, or compete in Ironman Triathlons. In all three of those outlets, I have seen full-grown men and women cry. Cried from disappointment, cried from joy, and were deeply moved by their chosen tribes. They talk about their purpose, and the group, and what they learn.
More than ever we want to feel moved in our workplace. This isn’t Kumbaya or spiritual circle kind of stuff. In fact, research shows that job seekers increasingly care about their connection to the purpose and impact of their organization. A 2015 Deloitte survey found that six in ten millennials shared that a “sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose their current employer.” Yes, in this current “war for talent”, it has everything to do with your bottom line.
This Veterans Day, I encourage you to better your team’s connection with its purpose. Here are three simple places to start:
- Hold one-on-one’s with your team members. Create a curious space where you ask how connected your team members feel to the purpose of the job and the team. Don’t get defensive. Ask them about their ideas. What would make them feel more connected? Is there something that needs to be talked about that is getting in the way? Where can they contribute?
- Write a Stump Speech with your team. The questions are in this blog. The Stump Speech is a great exercise to take your team through. It sets groundwork for the future by exploring internal and external requirements. It is simple and to the point. Once completed, you can go back to the document and discuss as a team what has changed over time.
- Find your own connection with the purpose. It is so important to tap into your own connection. When people question misalignment with your team’s purpose, they will pay close attention to how you react. Susan Scott, Fierce Founder, says, “There is no trivial comment as a leader.” And I would add, there is no trivial reaction. People are watching, and they will spot integrity outages from miles away. That’s where your internal job comes in. Are you where you need to be?