Leadership in Action – Create Purpose and Meaning for Your Team

woman in blue scrub suit wearing white mask

In this post, the fourth of five on the PERMA model for Well Being, we cover the M – Meaning. You provide meaning for your team by connecting their work, and the overall work of the organization, to something larger. This provides a connection to the community and as well as purpose in one’s life. Having this purpose in life increases commitment and reduces turnover.


At the job level, it is always important to connect someone’s effort, and their job as a whole, to the bigger picture. How do their roles and responsibilities connect with others? Who do they rely on? Who relies on them? This creates a healthy interdependence throughout the team and organization. As a leader, you do this by being explicit in how their work contributes to the overall success of the team. For example, if you have a team member do data analysis for you, and you use that information to make decisions at a higher level, then let them know how their analysis contributed to the decision process and why it was helpful. When people know that the work they are doing has a purpose and utility, it supplies more meaning to their job.


The next level of meaning comes from understanding how the organization supports the community at large. This can include direct involvement and support of community efforts. and helps every employee know how the company’s product or services has a positive impact on the community at large. For some organizations, their contribution to the community is obvious. For others, it just takes a different perspective to see the real impact. While a power generation plant makes energy, defining it as “we keep the lights on” provides more meaning and purpose than just making electricity.


While many businesses failed due to COVID, others redefined themselves and connected strongly with their communities. For example, during the first round of the US Government Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP), banks were struggling with changing rules, regulations and general uncertainty of how the program was to work. Our community bank clients were not only more effective than their peers in implementing the program for their customers, they also tracked the number of jobs the bank helped to protect in their community. Helping each bank employee see the impact on their friends, neighbors and the community as whole created strong meaning and value in their jobs. This increased meaning helped reduce the negative impacts COVID has had on a number of organizations.


As a leader, when you Connect the Dots to how each team member’s efforts contribute to the success of the organization, and how the success of the organization contributes to the betterment of the community, you provide meaning and purpose in your teams, as well as reduce turnover.