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Now more than ever we want to find and feel meaning in our work. And a cornerstone of meaningful work is who we are together, how we show up for one another, how our environment supports this, and how we know we are safe, belong, and matter at work. These prerequisites enable us to expand our identities via our work, and to become a bigger version of ourselves as a result.
Does your work environment enable this?
Here are 3 ways to create more meaning in your workplace now.
1-Your Leaders Create Meaning
It all starts with our leader; with the culture they put in place and continue reinforcing. Let’s unpack this. When we experience trust in our leader Serotonin and Dopamine are released, which makes us feel good because the result is:
- Oxytocin (a human bonding hormone) levels increase
- Cortisol (a stress-related hormone) levels decrease
The result? Increased resilience and emotional agility in stressful times due to trust of our leader, and ultimately trust of our tribe. This then supports self-regulation, which is our ability to manage our emotional state. Self-regulation occurs in our prefrontal cortex and is only possible when we’re in our Smart State – where high engagement, collaboration, communication, innovation reign—versus being in our Critter State where we’re snared in fight/flight/freeze.
2-Your Environment Creates Meaning
There are two qualities of an optimal work environment that helps a tribe become and stay agile: an enriched environment and a reliable environment.
An enriched environment is an interactive, stimulating environment which leads to increased surface area of brain cells. The result? Team members making more connections, solving problems faster, figuring things out faster and innovating better.
Enriched cultures create a more meaningful and purpose-driven workplace. A more meaningful and purpose-driven workplace yields countless benefits:
Two Basic Modes For The Human Brain
Trust also creates reliable environments.
A brain in a more reliable (trust their leader) and enriched (stimulating) environment will have more branches. So the overall team will have more neural branches too. More branches = more surface area = more connections = more positive meaning is made.
More positive meaning results in:
- More fulfillment
- More contribution
- More innovation
- More loyalty
- More emotional agility
- More retention
- More engagement
And to boost meaning we turn to a Tribal Identity rich in purpose. This helps us to feel powerful together, understand where we fit in and how to belong to the tribe, gives us shared beliefs, and increases the potency and power of our individual identity (because we belong to such a cool tribe).
3-Tribal Identity Creates Meaning
Tribal identity is how we describe ourselves. At Google they are Googlers and are collaborative innovators. In the early days of Microsoft, the engineers were awarded lab coats for great achievements, as they were seen as brilliant scientists inventing the future. Some sales teams see themselves as cowboys and cowgirls out on the range rounding up customers. Our team at SmartTribes Institute sees themselves as providing Ritz Carlton-level 5-star client service. What is your tribal identity? Is it compelling? Aspirational? Playful? Engaging?
In my book Power Your Tribe we talk about a Cultural GAME (Growth, Appreciation, Measurement, Engagement) Plan and how to harness its power to transform your tribe into a highly engaged, thank-God-it’s-Monday group of high performing, healthy, happy people—to make sure your tribal identity sticks.
Yet a GAME plan is only as effective as the emotional experience that surrounds it and is reinforced by it. To boost the emotional experience, you’ll want to:
- Bring profound meaning to your workplace
- Craft a cultural identity and employee experience rich in trust
- Use neuroscience-based techniques that will increase human performance, cohesiveness, innovation
You probably have pieces of your Cultural GAME Plan already in place. Now you can craft or edit (if need be) your organization’s tribal identity and reinforce it with your cultural rituals. Note the lab coats above as an example. Fundamental to a solid GAME plan is a foundation of profound meaning.
Let’s check in…
Profound Meaning check in:
- Are your mission, vision, values working as well as they could be?
- Mission – Our emotional (“we believe”) purpose, why we get up in the morning
- Vision – Where we’re going together (aspirational), and why it matters
- Values – Who we are/how we behave as we fulfill our Mission and drive toward our Vision—these must be alive, celebrated, modeled by all
You can’t change a person’s values very easily. Which is why we need to recruit for them. Here’s a link to our values-based recruiting process that our clients love.
Tribal Identity check in:
- Does your culture have a clear identity? If so, what is it?
- Does everyone throughout your organization agree with it and feel inspired by the identity?
- Does your identity reinforce safety, belonging, mattering?
- Does your team have high trust and transparency around performance expectations?
Tribal Rituals check in:
- How do your cultural rituals support your identity and values? Are they enough to motivate belonging and mattering?
- Example: some of our clients have annual mini golf tournaments in the office where each “hole” is a plastic cup for a given value. Once you get the ball in the hole you share with all present who models this value powerfully and how, and how you’d like to model it more powerfully.
- Another client celebrates the “super powers” of each employee as their tribal identity is of super heroes. Outside of each cubicle or on their Zoom background you see the person’s “super powers”. Now you know who to come to if you want to cultivate yours.
- Is it safe to fail in your culture? Do you see “failure” as simply feedback as to what didn’t totally work, or is failure condemned?
- Leaders, environment, shared tribal identity help us create more meaning at work
- With more meaning we are more productive, creative, engaged, collaborative, happy
- Any organization can create more meaning!
Let me know how the above helps you create more meaning for your tribe.