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Does Your Team Have a Sense of Purpose?

May 1, 2018

Purpose at work

For individuals and teams, having a clear purpose is key to success. But many employees lack this workplace essential. Two-thirds of people do not really understand what their job is and how it fits in with the organization, says Leah Weiss, PhD, a teacher, researcher, and meditation expert at Stanford University.

In an AMA Edgewise podcast, Weiss discusses the need to have purpose and meaning in the way we spend our time. “No wonder we’re having this crisis of engagement. We need to take seriously making sure that people know the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of their work,” said Weiss, who is the author of How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind (HarperCollins, 2018).

Weiss identifies three key traits that individuals and organizations need to succeed. She describes these traits as follows in the podcast:

  • Clarity of purpose. Individuals, teams, and the larger organization need to know where they are headed.
  • Candor. The organization must support candor in its culture, and people must have the skills to speak up.
  • Connection. The organization and its employees must foster strong relationships between teammates.

Weiss suggests that leaders have an ongoing and evolving conversation with employees to ensure they understand what the big picture is, how changing plans affect it, and how they fit into that picture.

She offers the metaphor of the box top of a puzzle, which allows people to see what they are trying to put together. “The job of leadership is to continually—as we make efforts as individuals and teams—keep checking and keep making sure that people are clear on how their actions and interactions fit in with this broader perspective,” she said.

Understanding the role of co-workers in completing the puzzle is critical as well. “We ourselves can’t fill in the whole puzzle,” Weiss said. “We need to understand how the various people and functions fit together. So it becomes really important for people to keep updating each other about their work and about their process.”

Listen to the full podcast with Leah Weiss.

Visit the Edgewise podcast library for podcasts on a variety of topics.

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American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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