Much has been written on the whole subject of engagement and motivation. Its cornerstone is anchored in the idea of alignment; a connection between what is being done and what it actually means to the person. However if somebody is performing a task but doesn’t quite understand how their contribution fits into the overall objective, something is missing. This is often referred to as purpose.
Daniel Pink in his work around this subject highlights purpose as being key to performance so long in is in tandem with mastery (knowledge) of what you do and the autonomy (freedom) to carry out the task. But purpose is something that many misunderstand or it feels like this intangible that you can’t quite get your head around. But in truth, it’s the basic requirement, and in many respects, it’s the elementary price of entry. Within Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it probably belongs somewhere between love/belonging and esteem.
Let’s break down purpose into 4 simple building blocks that will help better understand its criticality. For illustrative purpose, let’s use the task of removing snow from your street, which is very apt for most New Englanders around this time. Four things need to be present to ensure the existence of purpose.
- Intent – it’s the what – remove the snow
- Consequence – it’s the why – people / cars can move freely
- Knowledge Required – it’s the how – ability and equipment to execute
- Recognition – satisfaction / reward associated with completion
Every task from the most basic to advanced must in some way include these characteristics of purpose. Think about an assignment, a project, a trip or anything that requires you to optimize your motivation level to ensure a successful outcome. Then ask yourself, what is the intent, the consequence, the knowledge required and the recognition. If you can answer all these questions satisfactorily, you have nailed the purpose and will most likely achieve a successful outcome.