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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

My #1 Strategy for Employee Engagement

First, don't try to “create a sense of urgency"

Whenever leaders ask me how they can “create a sense of urgency,” I usually just roll my eyes. (It ranks right up there with “turn on the tap” and “educate the market” in my top 10 list of most delusional ambitions.)

Before you try to foster this so-called “urgency,” check out this insightful post from Kimber Lockhart, CTO at One Medical, who warns: "Don’t create a sense of urgency, foster a sense of purpose.”

"Trying to create a sense of urgency almost always backfires… instead look for a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose is a deep understanding of the reasons behind our efforts and a desire to pour in time and energy because that purpose resonates with the impact we’d like to make on the world.”

Sounds pithy, great Tweet! But how do you actually do that?

How to actually foster a sense of purpose

Is the trick to craft a great mission statement? Not at all.

For most employees, if they’re being honest, the company’s mission statement sounds hollow. (Sorry, it’s true.) Most people are working towards achieving their own goals, not yours. (But that’s fine - we can work with that).

Don't confuse the two - there’s a big difference between the company’s purpose and the employees’ purpose.

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my career was assuming everyone on my team had the same goals and motivations as me. Eventually, I learned that each of us have our own goals and motivations. Some of us find meaning in crafting great products. Some of us like to solve puzzles. Some of us thrive off of human interaction. And some of us just want to win at all costs. Each of your employees will have their own goals and motivations. The question is, how do you discover them?

The solution was so simple, it’s almost embarrassing. I just asked each person on my team to tell me about their goals, what sort of work they love, and what sort of work they dislike. Each person had a clear answer, and each one surprised me more than the next!

As a manager, take the time to ask each of your people what sort of work they enjoy, and what their goals are. And then, as a leader, figure out how to make each person a hero in their own story.


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