We hear quite often these days that leaders need to instill a sense of purpose in their organizations. People have to believe that they are doing meaningful work. They have to understand why the organization exists and what beyond profit is the goal of the firm. In an interview for Knowledge at Wharton, Professor Andrew Carton talks about an important part of this process. He talks about how important it is to connect the broad vision of the firm to the actions of individuals on the front lines. That connecting process is crucial. People have to see how their work connects to the bigger picture. How are they specifically contributing to the mission even if they are not interacting with the customer every day or doing what they perceive to be the glamorous work in the firm?
What I found is that it’s absolutely critical that leaders do depict a compelling picture of where ultimately we want to go. But just as important — and also more time consuming and requiring even more investment — is that they communicate about how each employee in the organization can get a sense of how their work connects to the organization’s mission or vision. That process of connection-building took more steps and was more time intensive and more complex than the process of just selling somebody about the importance and beauty of this ultimate goal that we’re trying to achieve together. In some sense, that was the easy part. The hard part is helping people see a connection between their work and the organization’s mission.