I’d like to share two quick stories.
Years ago I was training the Palm Beach County Clerks Office executive team. The new Clerk, Sharon Bock, was intent on creating a world-class organization. One of my more interesting assignments from her was to attend a Six Sigma day as an observer. The 300 person management and leadership team would be facilitated by Six Sigma trainers to further define their vision, mission, values, and goals. Afterward, Sharon asked me what I observed. I told her the attendees were having their own little happy party talking about the difference they would make out there…without including a single customer of the County Clerk involved in the conversation.
I explained it’s hard to be purposeful or self-actualized where you don’t invite your customer, client or user into the conversation. How else can you truly understand their experience?
I had another client in my Florida days that was a formal wear manufacturer. Their retail spaces were amazing. Beautiful models wore the clothes in 12-foot posters all around the showrooms. However, when you got to the manufacturing floor, those pictures were gone. The purpose of those seamstresses was to sew that tuxedo or wedding dress. That was it. No real “meaning” in the work other than that.
I convinced the owner his employees should be treated no differently than their customers and that the same pictures should also be hung throughout the manufacturing floor. Even better, I suggested they provide a discount to some couples if they came by the manufacturing floor and showed the workers how special the garments they sewed made them feel.
Now, do you think those seamstresses would be more engaged and more purposeful after a direct experience with the customer like that? Produce greater “discretionary effort”? Of course, they would!
Eventually, they also added real photos and testimonials from client weddings on the manufacturing walls too.
Finding meaning in your work is about serving. More precisely, it is about the service experience between an employee and their customer. Make sure your employees get to directly interact with the people they serve and then let them discover how their work makes a difference in their customers lives.