Purpose in Every Role

defining my purpose definiteness of purpose drive employee engagement employee purpose engagement fulfillment individual purpose leaders purpose leadership leadership purpose leading with a clear purpose leading with purpose mission vs purpose organizational purpose passion and purpose at work providing purpose in the workplace Jun 06, 2024
employee purpose

Early on in this look at Leading With a Clear Purpose, I shared examples of close friends who have dedicated (and risked) their lives through careers serving others; military, fire, and law enforcement. In detailing those, I even provided some average starting wages for police officers and firefighters beginning their careers in Virginia - around $50k. As a quick side note, each of the friends I referred to in that example have recently shared the cost of getting a new recruit up to speed in their respective fields. One a Deputy Fire Chief in a large county and the other a Police Chief in a sizable town nearby, both estimated the price tag involved with training someone fresh out of their respective academies to be around $100,000!

I’ve been involved in filling no less than a thousand positions for the organizations I’ve worked directly for or supported in some way over the last decade and a half so I’ve learned just how critical it can be to weed out the pretenders before they accept a position. Even then, there are still some that just never get up to speed before leaving the organization they recently joined. With so much training expense involved in preparing a firefighter or police officer, I’d do everything in my power to talk them into pursuing another career before I ever started discussing the perceived benefits that come with either role; I’ve been very intentional about doing the same for positions that require far less upfront training to get someone up to speed so doing it when such a high price tag is involved seems like a no-brainer!

There’s been one common theme with all of the great people I’ve known who have dedicated their lives to careers in the military, law enforcement, and fire safety; they’ve been absolutely locked onto the impact they make, individually and through the organizations they’ve been a part of. They’ve all had extreme clarity around a definite (relevant) purpose. And they’ve been able to track how every bit of their work has contributed to achieving that purpose, making it very measurable

The best leaders I’ve known in each of those fields aren’t the ones who paint the shiniest picture of the work their teams do each day. If anything, most of them have been fairly candid about the hard knocks involved in what they do. But what I have seen is them being extremely intentional about making sure the individuals they lead recognize the positive difference they’re making through all the challenges they deal with. They’re always sure to call attention to how each team members’ performance is making a difference as well as how the entire group they lead is doing work that matters; they speak to each individual’s purpose and to the overall organizational purpose.

While Cindy and I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people in each of those areas, the vast majority of our time is with leaders in the private sector. The compensation for essentially every comparable role is nearly always higher and the risks involved rarely stack up against what the fields I just mentioned deal with in just training. With that in mind, I’ll emphasize once more that it ain’t just about the pay; purpose always matters! The challenge in many private sector roles is that it can be harder to draw a straight line to a definite purpose, especially when it feels like we’re churning through the same routine on a daily basis. As a leader in that kind of scenario, we’ll need to work even harder to connect what feels like monotony to a relevant purpose that can be easily measured so we’ll begin working through that soon!