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How to work with Meaning & Purpose?

What does a work mean to you? Are you engaging your current job with a meaning and purpose? What kind of difference would it make if we were to engage our work with meaning and purpose?

I remember a bad phone call experience for an insurance claim for my mother in law. My mother in law while shopping in a retail store fell and injured herself. Talking to the insurance claim agent on the phone was the worst nightmare as the agent on the phone was only interested in ending the claim instead of helping the patient. I could clearly feel that the company handling the claim was not pursuing a meaningful work.

In The Leadership Challenge, the authors, James and Barry, talk about Nancy's experience as the vice president of Trustmark Companies that provide disability and long-term care benefits. Nancy was faced with the daunting task of painting a bigger picture of what her team could accomplish and make difference in the lives of people. So, Nancy crafted a message and posted it everywhere in the company. It read

"I dream of a place here in our office, where the sales team maintains respect and confidence in our decisions not just today but tomorrow and always; the constant challenges to our decisions just don't exist. Where our insureds trust our decisions and feel our genuine commitment to serving them well in their greatest time of need. Where our customers have confidence that your decision was contractual, yes, but more importantly ethically correct and sound...

I dream of a place where growth and opportunities are massive because of the time and energy you invested with your commitments and therefore our opportunities and potential are endless. A place that no longer manages claims, but manages decisions on disability. A place that is no longer thought of as disability-claim experts, but disability experts. A place where our colleagues and government officials look for disability solutions. A place where Trustmark is the number-one company to serve as the assistance to all disability needs" (Page 121).

With this message, Nancy was reminding her team that their work was more than handling the claims but actually making difference in the lives of people. She did this by making people see the purpose and the true meaning behind the work that can affect the real lives of people in a positive way. With this message and really embodying this message, Nancy was able to not only create a positive morale in the company but also surpass the annual targets for many years.

So, how can we find meaning and purpose to the work that we do?

(1) Think about how your work is making difference in the world.

For example, when I worked as an accountant in a small firm, I saw my work as an opportunity to help small business owners manage their finances so they can create and add values to the world. What about your work? How is your work making difference (or adding value) to the world?

(2) Think about how your work is making difference in the lives of the people.

When I was working as a building manager, I took this opportunity to build relationships with the tenants. When tenants went through difficult life circumstances, they always came to me for talks and prayers. What about your work? How is your work making difference in the lives of people?

A friend of mine who is a mortgage broker once shared with me a story. He had a client who was not 100% ready to buy a home. But, my friend helped the client from step 0 all the way to the final step to ensure the client is ready to get mortgage approved so the client can buy the home and make the dream of home ownership come true. After this experience my friend shared with me, "Hey Paul. I can finally say I am doing this business not just to make living but to actually help people's dream come true!"

I personally believe that every work that is legal, ethical, and moral has a sacred value in the world. So, how are you making difference in the world through your work? And, how are you making the difference in the lives of people through your work? Discover the purpose and meaning to your work. It will make a difference not only to the people you serve but to you as well!


Kouzes, J. M. (2017). The leadership challenge. Wiley

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