High Performing Organizations Provide Spirit and MeaningI once had a speaking engagement with a cleaning and custodial company at their annual management conference. Arriving early and sitting in on the meeting to get a feel for the group and the conference, I was inspired by what a remarkable job those leaders did of bringing “pride of craft” to clean toilets and shiny floors. They showed pictures of facilities before (good thing it wasn’t near meal time) and after, gave awards and recognition, and discussed best cleaning practices — all with much more energy and professionalism than I had seen from many other highly trained and multi-degreed “professionals” at their meetings.

Pride is a distinctive hallmark of strong leadership. Leaders who deeply connect people to their organization, its products or services, each other, customers, and other partners, cultivate an outstanding pride-of craft and sense of ownership in many ways — both highly visible and subtle.

High-performance organizations are often defined by people who feel connected to something greater than themselves. In his book, Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek reports,

“great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.”

A growing number of studies are now looking at the critical leadership issue of bringing spirit and meaning to organizations. One poll found that managers want a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment on the job more than they want money and time off.

Former Harvard professor David Maister’s study of the values most impacting organization effectiveness found that, “‘People treat each other with respect around here’ turned out to be one of the nine profit predictors.” In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink notes,

“we’re learning that the profit motive, potent though it is, can be an insufficient impetus for both individuals and organizations. An equally powerful source of energy, one we’ve often neglected or dismissed as unrealistic, is what we might call the ‘purpose motive.'”

Tomorrow we publish my June blogs in the July issue of The Leader Letter. This issue features Frank’s search for spirit and meaning in a four-part “summer reading series” adapted from The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success (one of my four books offered in our 3-for-1 choose your own combo summer reading). He learns how high-performance organizations pull together the intangible leadership principles that define their unique character and rally people around a deeper sense of purpose. These powerful feelings are made tangible through the strong implementation of management processes and systems that translate ideals into action.

The rapidly growing research in the new discipline of positive psychology shows that purpose and meaning play a key role in boosting our well-being. In his book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, positive psychology’s founder, Martin Seligman, explains,

“positive mental health is a presence: the presence of positive emotion, the presence of engagement, the presence of meaning, the presence of good relationships, and the presence of accomplishment. Being in a state of mental health is not merely being disorder free; rather it is the presence of flourishing.”

Read the full series here or download the entire 4 part series as a PDF.