People Will Work Harder for Meaning Than for Money

How can a leader quickly connect followers to the importance of their work?


Studies show that people will work harder for meaning in their work than for money, and it's the leaders job to help people find meaning in what they do. In this video, author and speaker Dr. Tim Irwin talks about Customer Line of Sight and the impact it can have to help people see the bigger picture of their work.

I discovered years ago that I have a genetic predisposition to have high cholesterol, so I have to go and get my blood drawn three or four times a year to have my cholesterol levels checked. So one morning I had been fasting, and to tell you the truth, it was early and I was kind of dreading having my blood drawn. I knew this lady would stick my arm with a sharp needle but I got there and I sat down and she began to prepare me for the blood being drawn.

She was talking with me, and at one point, she began to sing. And she was singing this very nice song and all of a sudden she was done. She’d drawn several vials of blood and I didn’t even know it. And I looked up at her and I said you're good at this. And she said, "You better believe I'm good at this." She said, "It's my calling. It's what I'm here to do." She says, "It's my job to keep people healthy."

My immediate reaction was, you know, she's got it. She understands the bigger picture of why she's here. Evidence shows that if people are paid fairly, they'll work harder for meaning than they will for money. And I believe it's the leader’s job to help people find meaning in what they do.

Now, in my experience the quickest way to find meaning is to have line of sight to the customer. Many jobs really don't have line of sight to the customer. There's somebody sitting back in a cubicle, or on a computer. Whatever. And they really don't know who they're serving. They're just they're serving the computer, or they're serving their boss. But I think it's the leader’s job to help people see that bigger picture, just as this young woman did.

One of the quickest ways to help people find that meaning is to really understand what the customer wants. I remember I was working at a cardboard manufacturing plant one time. And the foreman got his people together and said, "Let's talk for just a few minutes about what people are using our boxes for." One person said, "Well, they ship medical supplies." One person said, "Hey, I think they ship videos to entertain families." Just a whole variety of things that were shipped in their boxes. And as a result, people began to say, "Yeah, what we're doing is very important. Making cardboard boxes is a very important job."

Your job as leaders is to help people find that meaning in their work. You know what the result is when they do? Followers will be transformed.

Dr. Tim Irwin

Dr. Tim Irwin has consulted with a number of America’s most well-known and respected companies including SunTrust Banks, Chick-fil-A, Bank of America, Corning, Inc., IBM, The Coca Cola Company, Hoechst-Celanese, Gerber Products Compan...

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