We typically see organizational leaders tell two types of stories to inspire their teams. The first, the turnaround story, runs along the lines of “We’re performing below industry standard and must change dramatically to survive—incremental change is not sufficient to attract investors to our underperforming company.” The second, the good-to-great story, goes something like this: “We are capable of far more, given our assets, market position, skills, and loyal staff, and can become the undisputed leader in our industry for the foreseeable future.”
The problem with both approaches is that the story centers on the company, and that will inspire some but by no means all employees. Our research shows that four other sources give individuals a sense of meaning, including their ability to have an impact on
- society—for example, making a better society, building the community, or stewarding resources
- the customer—for instance, making life easier and providing a superior service or product
- the working team—for instance, a sense of belonging, a caring environment, or working together efficiently and effectively
- themselves—examples include personal development, a higher paycheck or bonus, and a sense of empowerment
Surveys of hundreds of thousands of employees show that the split in most companies—regardless of management level, industry sector, or geography (developed or developing economies)—is roughly equal. It appears that these five sources are a universal human phenomenon.
The implication for leaders seeking to create high-MQ environments is that a turnaround or a good-to-great story will strike a motivational chord with only 20 percent of the workforce. The same goes for a “change the world” vision like those of Disney and Google or appeals to individuals on a personal level. The way to unleash MQ-related organizational energy is to tell all five stories at once.
Source: “Increasing the ‘Meaning Quotient’ of Work”
Original Publication: The McKinsey Quarterly
Subject: Organizational Behavior