How to Pursue Work With Meaning + Purpose
Lessons from October’s Servant Leadership Community of Practice
As a working professional, supervisor, or employee, there are three essential realities we must embrace:
- The nature of work has changed forever. Thanks to Covid and remote work, the corporate world is not the same as it was.
- You must own your professional development. No one cares about your career growth as much as you (well, maybe your mother, according to Alan Patterson). Looking to a company for “what’s next” won’t keep you satisfied.
- Leadership plays a critical role. No matter what you call it – servant-leader, daring greatly, being givers or ladderburners – most days, how you show up matters more than what you do.
What do we do with this new reality in the workplace?
How do you perform as a leader?
How do you measure success in your work?
In our October 2022 Community of Practice, we discussed Alan Patterson’s book, Burn Ladders. Build Bridges, with collaborator Jenny Knuth. Our conversation focused on exploring answers to these burning questions.
How do you measure your success at work?
The answers vary depending on the person, their position, and experience. Common themes include:
- Happiness and low stress levels
- Work-life balance
- Salary $$$
- Achieving goals
- Retention of employees
- Client satisfaction
- Growth and advancement in the organization
- Opportunities to take on new challenges
- A sense of purpose/mission
The definition of and pursuit of personal success at work can vary from person to person, but overall, there are common paths and behaviors we follow. Be it from familial pressure or societal expectations.
Without realizing it, we only end up playing games and working ourselves ragged. Some of the top games played at work, include:
The Game of Education
- For most, it begins the moment you start school. Get the right answer and you achieve & advance.
- There’s nothing wrong with achievement, but if it’s the only game you’re playing, it’s going to limit you.
The Game of LadderClimbing
- It’s all about you and your perceived value as you compete with your colleagues to prove yourself.
- There are only so many spots on the ladder, so for most this game results in “The Road to Not Good Enough.”
Both games use external motivation to encourage and reward. I.E. = Pay, promotion, status, etc.
The hard truth about these games…you do not have much of any control or say when you’re structuring your view of success around the corporate ladder!
Introducing a different game and mindset…Ladderburning
It’s code for changing how you define your success at work.
Taking control of your career growth to intentionally create opportunities.
Putting more emphasis on experiments, curiosity, imagination, and understanding.
Ready to play the ladderburning game? Here are some important reminders to get you started:
Skills Needed to Build Bridges:
- It’s not just work-life balance, it’s work-life integration.
- You own your professional development. Stop waiting for your boss or organization to come to you with a plan.
- It’s up to you to find meaning and purpose in your work. That goes for engagement, too.
- Build true relationships instead of collecting personal achievements.
- Create meaning by focusing less on “what you do” and more about “who you are” while you’re at work.
How to Empower your Team:
- Redirect them to building bridges.
- Forget the ladder. Instead, place your energy on a different kind of structure – one that builds trust between individuals vs. solely competition.
- Remind them that building relationships may not be their full-time job (or even noted in their job description), but it is a full-time responsibility.
- See every conversation as an opportunity to build credibility and connection.
- Emphasize that there is no roadmap to follow.
- Align to your measure of success. Create your own path. Find interesting and interested people along the way!
So, what does Bridge Building look like to you?
Define what’s meaningful. Questions to ask:
- What does meaning and engagement sound like, look like, feel like for you?
- What fills your cup?
- What is your why?
Who is on your bridge currently?
Look at who you connect with deeply now. The relationships that you have, have the power to transform almost everything.
How to build bridges?
No shortcuts work. Strive to make every conversation and interaction count. Work on understanding and actively listening to people. Ask good questions. Show up and respect others.
As leaders, our actions influence how others think and feel. We have the ability to influence and create impact in ways that ripple out exponentially. Make the time to be that advisor, mentor, thinking partner, friend.
Ladderburning is rooted
in servant leadership.
Use these tools and discussions as a guide to finding meaning + purpose in your work so that your Way of Working becomes your Way of Living. Meaning and purpose will inevitably naturally follow.
What have you learned from this book or blog? Anything you’d add to our lists, contact us and let us know!
- Website, www.ladderburners.com
- Burn Ladders. Build Bridges. – Book available through various retailers – www.ladderburners.com/burn-ladders-build-bridges-book
- Ladderburner Manifesto, www.ladderburners.com/ladderburner-manifesto
This blog post wraps up October 2022’s Community of Practice events. To join us during the live discussion for future months, visit https://www.sophiapartners.org/events/ and register for either or both FREE, ONLINE group discussions. Coffee & Conversation occurs the third Friday of each month at 7:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m. CT. Leaders Do Lunch occurs the fourth Tuesday of each month at 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. CT.