Where’s the meaning?

where-is-the-meaningIf the people on your team have to ask “Where is the meaning in my work?” something is wrong!

In his book  Meaning, Inc. , Gurnek Bains ecourages leaders to bring the organization’s mission and vision to life through meaningful work. Between actual work time and digital connections people spend over half of their waking hours “at work.” Understanding how those work activities are making a contribution to customers (students at Minnesota State), the community or larger society will make work more meaningful.

While each person on your team has their own personal values and beliefs about what is important, there are actions that leaders can take to strengthen meaning at work.  Bains identifies the following leadership activities that help create more meaningful work:

  • Discussing and supporting personal stretch goals that are related to the vision.
  • Focusing on the unique strengths and talents that each person brings to work.
  • Documenting, evaluating, providing feedback and highlighting each person’s work and contribution to group efforts.
  • Clearly linking individual and team work activities and accomplishments to wider issues.
  • Ensuring that short-term goals don’t conflict with the deeper organizational purpose.
  • Role modeling stated ideals.

Making sure your people know the difference their work makes in the lives of other people builds meaning. And meaning is powerful.

Todd Thorsgaard

7 Times, 7 Ways: Promoting your Mission & Vision to ALL

multiple-intelligences-learning-stylesYou’ve done it: brainstormed your thoughts and direction for your organization, used feedback from employees at all levels, and collaborated with your leadership team to create a Mission and Vision statement that everyone is proud of.  Now what?

Try the “7 Times in 7 Ways” method to come up with creative, interesting ways to promote this exciting news!  The thinking behind this practice is to go beyond email blasts and posters, and really think about unique ways to get your message heard by all your “learners” (in this case, your employees).

Which leads to another helpful teaching and learning practice: Multiple Intelligences.  This idea is centered around the different ways people receive, filter and retain information, based on how they perceive the world around them.

Picture Smart people respond well to visuals (like those posters), while a Word Smart person will actually read an email instead of skimming it and possibly missing important information.  Recruit your People Smart staff to work your kickoff event; the Logic Smart folks may or may not attend, but if they do they’ll appreciate receiving brief and concise information more than a giveaway cap (which may be highly valued by your Nature Smart staff).

What ideas can you come up with that could work for your organization, using the tips in this article, while thinking about multiple ways that people receive, retain and value a message (i.e., learn)?

Image: www.connectionsacademy.com

Cindy Schneider





Demonstrating the vision

planeLast week I was on a United Airlines flight to visit family in Colorado. As I was settling in, the usual voice started giving instructions. But then I heard this: “Hi, I’m your captain. I always like to greet the passengers and welcome them to the flight.” He told us about his background, his co-pilot’s background and the fact that they were friends who enjoyed flying together. He told us that the weather was choppy over Denver and they were taking an alternate route to avoid the worst turbulence.

He went on for at least 5 minutes, and people actually applauded at the end.

Afterwards, several passengers commented that they had never been on a flight before where the pilot personally welcomed people and told us what to expect. That pilot was visibly demonstrating United’s commitment to good customer service and safe travel.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort for leaders to show commitment to an organization’s mission and vision. And the effects can be powerful. When have you seen this in action?  What could you do?

Dee Anne Bonebright


Passion? At work?

passioninspirationwork2Last week at our New Administrator Orientation program Chancellor Steven Rosenstone shared his passion for why he comes to work each day and clearly articulated why the work we all do is important.

He spoke about the shared common core value that our colleges and universities are focused on: providing an opportunity for all Minnesotans to create a better future for themselves. He reminded us that our work as leaders is crucial to ensuring that our colleges and universities meet that challenge and that is why we do what we do. His passion was evident and it was infectious!

Author James R Lucas in his book, The Passionate Organization: Igniting the Fire of Employee Commitment, suggests that articulating and sharing your organizational vision with passion helps guide and focus the work people do and enhance commitment. This requires a vision that has two key components:

  1. What is your organization’s purpose – the strategic vision. The what and how of your organization.
  2. What are your organization’s values – the cultural vision. This is the element that is often missing or not communicated by leaders. It is the why of your organization.

Passion is expressed when you focus on making a difference and clearly articulate how people’s day to day work contributes directly to the shared values of your organization.

Yes, passion does belong at work!



Seeing the Future Through Different Sets of Eyes

Creating or rewriting a vision statement can be an interesting and revealing process for an organization, with the reward of a tangible product at the end.  Purposefully taking the time to think about the future,  what your organization could look like in 5, 10 or more years, and dreaming of both achievable and more challenging goals can spur employees to really think about the company’s values, their own values, and how to reflect them  through their work lives.

However, that view of the future could look very different to an executive or mid-level leader than your frontline staff, team leaders and individual contributors.

Below are vision statement examples from a few well-known non-profits.  Can you think of some differences in understanding and perception of these, how they might be internalized, then explained to people outside of your organization, based on your employees’ various roles?

Creative Commons: Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.

Goodwill: Every person has the opportunity to achieve his/her fullest potential and participate in and contribute to all aspects of life.

Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.

(Source: https://topnonprofits.com/examples/vision-statements/)

Taking the time to think about your vision statement’s view from all the angles and all the distances can go a long ways in increasing understanding and support from all your organization’s employees.

Cindy Schneider

Cindy supports the Talent Management Division’s work in the HR Division at the Minnesota State system office.  She will complete her degree in Technical Communication & Professional writing this December.

Stability in an uncertain world

minnesota-stateA few days ago I did a workshop for a staff group at one of our colleges. We were talking about change and David Rock’s SCARF model. (Todd wrote about that model in a past blog post.)

We had a good conversation about how change can be a threat to the human need for certainty, and that a strong organizational mission can help mitigate the threat of changes at work. When we all agree on the mission, we know that it will remain constant no matter what else  changes.  For example, one of the participants had previously worked at the University of Minnesota. Her unit was facing a lot of change, but staff knew that the changes would always support the mission of teaching, research, and outreach.

Our new Minnesota State logo includes the phrase “Extraordinary Education. Exceptional Value.”  This summarizes the mission that many of us have been supporting for a long time. As we are looking at numerous changes over the next few years, we know that mission will remain constant. Here’s the full “Brand Promise” mission statement from the new branding manual:

Minnesota State is a system of colleges
and universities united to provide an
extraordinary education that is affordable,
accessible, enhances quality of life, and ensures
prosperous communities.
Do you think this commitment is likely to remain constant over time? How could it help you be consistent during times of change?
Dee Anne Bonebright




Find the sweet spot!

diagram_sweet-spot_clear-background-3-1024x804Author Dan Pontefract has released a new book that I found energizing and I encourage you to check it out. In The Purpose Effect (2016) he suggests that leaders can help their people recognize the “sweet spot” where the organizational mission overlaps with their role purpose and their own personal vision. You can read a summary of the book here – getAbstract

The sweet spot is the space where people feel engaged in their work, energized by how they can make a contribution and clearly understand the contributions their organization makes to their stakeholders. As leaders we rarely have the opportunity to be involved in the crafting of the organizational mission and vision but we can connect it to the day to day work being done and the unique aspirations of each person on your team.

Pontefract suggests that leaders focus on understanding and facilitating two-way dialogue in these three areas:

  1. Individual and personal goals or purpose and how they relate to the day to day work.
    • what motivates the people on your team?
    • how do they want to develop themselves?
    • what most interests them in their job?
    • how can you and the organization support their success?
  2. The organizational purpose, mission and vision.
    • what are your organization’s values?
    • how does the organization live out it’s purpose?
    • what are examples of the organizational purpose?
  3. Role-based purpose.
    • how do individual roles contribute to the success of the organization?
    • where do individual roles make a difference to stakeholders?
    • how can a leader recognize individual role contributions to the success of the department or organization?

Taking the time to understand each of these three areas is the first step. Then taking the time to consistently help your team members find their own personal sweet spot at work will help you bring your mission and vision to life.

Todd Thorsgaard