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The sweeping power of purpose
Recently, I was reading a 2014 Deloitte study of organizations with a highly-engaged workforce. And I was struck by a story they told. It is an incredible showcase for the power of an organization's purpose (what Simon Sinek calls your Why).
In the study, researchers found that companies with highly-engaged employees emphasize a core purpose that does not entail mere financial or operational goals. Rather, they create a common understanding among employees that each person plays a role in creating value for the entire ecosystem of the business.
Deloitte cites one example that showcases an employee at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They describe a group of reporters who are waiting to interview some key NASA officials. They see a janitor walking toward them broom in hand, and figured why not get some B footage for filler while they were waiting?
So microphone and camera ready, a reporter asked the janitor. “So what’s your job at NASA?” The janitor looked straight at the camera and said “It’s my job to help put a man on the moon.”
This is remarkable.
Now ask yourself: What would your company be like if every person that worked for you had the same unshakable conviction as the NASA janitor?
People fundamentally want to know that what they are doing serves a greater purpose. A deeply held sense of purpose leads to excellence. Every human being wants to know that they are making a difference and working toward something more than “the daily grind.” This is what leads to a higher level of employee engagement.
Leaders at NASA get this. Their employee’s comment shows how deeply this commitment runs throughout the organization, with every person at NASA knowing that they are contributing to a greater purpose.
Unsurprisingly, as of this writing, NASA has ranked number one in Best Places to Work in the Federal Government for three years in a row and counting.