That is a good question. In fact, for many people it might be THE question.
Does what you are doing matter?
Corporations spend huge amounts of time and money studying and improving efficiency. However, becoming more efficient might not be the key to a better bottom line. If you are the best and most efficient company at making rotary dial telephones, you still aren’t going to make any money. Being really good at building something people don’t need or want is pointless. Getting better is a literal waste of time.
If people know that what they are doing does not matter, than they are not going to be very motivated to do it. Salary only goes so far to motivate a person. In fact, at this moment, there are countless people working at a job for less money than they could make somewhere else simply because they believe in what they are doing. The non-profit world is filled with people who choose to be there because they see what they are doing as something that matters regardless of how much they are paid. Money is not the ultimate motivator.
Whether we are leading a team of paid employees or volunteers, the desire is the same for each one: they want to know that what they do matters. People want their life to have meaning and purpose.
Horst Schulze created a culture at Ritz Carlton built around a simple statement, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
Ritz Carlton is known for their customer service from top to bottom. It isn’t because they pay better, it is because they have assigned real and felt worth to each employee whether they open doors, clean, or work the front the desk. The employees understand how what they do matters. They know that they matter.
My background is predominately within the church context. So often, people see the pastor or maybe the singers as the ones who have the tasks that really matter. With this mindset, it could be very easy to cut corners in other areas because they don’t seem as important. The reality is very different. Studies have shown that the average new guest to a church has decided within the first 4 minutes whether or not they are coming back to that church. Some studies have shown it to be far less time than that. Within 4 minutes, the new guest has not heard one song from the band or one word of the pastor’s message. They have, however, been greeted, or not, by multiple others. They have seen the condition and cleanliness of the grounds. They have encountered people in the parking lot and by the doors. They have noticed the condition and cleanliness of the lobby and bathrooms. If they have children they have experienced whether or not the church is ready for their kids and if it is safe. All of these things determine whether or not they plan to return.
It is the same for other business and contexts as well. We have always heard the value and importance of the first impression. In business, this means that the landscaper, custodians, and maintenance crews are just as important as the receptionist or sales clerk or owner. The first impression starts at first contact. In today’s world that probably is digital through a website or social media.
If you are the top leader in an organization, you likely know that what you do matters. The question is, do the rest of those in the organization feel the same way about what they are doing?
If you aren’t the top leader, do you know why what you are doing matters?
If not, this is a problem.
The old adage is true, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In organizations, the weakest link rarely has anything to do with talent or even structure, the weakest link is usually someone who does not understand that what they do matters. It’s the one just phoning it in at best.
Does it matter? The answer is “YES!”
If the answer comes out that it doesn’t matter, then it still does because it is a waste of time and energy and that matters. That activity/behavior/system needs to stop and that matters.
We all have the need to know that what we do matters. We all feel it. As a leader, it is my job to help others understand how what they do matters. It is my job to help them realize and fulfill their purpose.
In a for profit business, the purpose can’t just be to make the company more money. It has to go beyond that. The purpose must be greater than a bonus structure. These things are not bad. Bonuses for employees doing a job well are good. The company making a profit is a good thing for the owners, shareholders, and even employees. But, the matter, the purpose, must go beyond money.
There are many examples high level employee engagement and satisfaction from Chick-fil-A to Southwest Airlines to Ritz Carlton to the Herchend Family Corporation. These companies all work tirelessly to make sure the employees are engaged and understand why and how what they do matters. As such, the customers have amazing experiences and become quite loyal. All of these companies have high positive feedback ratings. They are all quite profitable. A big reason for all of this is they have connected each employee with purpose; why it matters.
It does matter.
What you do matters.
If you don’t feel like it does matter, then you need to make a change. Either change what you are doing or change why you are doing it.
The custodian matters because he is providing a clean and safe environment. The customer service rep matters because she is engaging a person with the opportunity to make their day a little brighter and meet a need or want in their life. The social media administrator matters because he is providing convenience and experience. The CEO matters because she sets the tone and drives the culture of the company making lives better or making them more miserable.
What you do matters.