I recently took a trip to the Philippines where I had the opportunity to help out at an orphanage as well as working on some philanthropic construction projects. Although the work I was doing was hard and repetitive, I had a great time and was able to maintain my energy and enthusiasm throughout the trip. Once I returned, I started thinking about the causes and effects of that experience, and how they could be applied to a business environment.
Most people want to do something worthwhile with their lives. Few people are content to simply work for a paycheck they spend on themselves. Many people choose to donate their money or volunteer their time to a cause they support, and even those who don't, often feel they should. Doing good makes us feel good, and helps us stay enthusiastic and focused. In the same way people spend their personal resources, they also react to their jobs. People want to do a job that's personally fulfilling, a job that accomplishes something worthwhile. Of course, not all of us can work at a philanthropic organization. However, we can still be doing something meaningful even if that's simply making the world a better place by leaving our customers satisfied. In college, I was the leader of a team of people who did, essentially, janitorial work. This was not a glorious job. However, I emphasized to my team that our job was to perform an essential service with superior quality, and the policies and goals I set reflected that. Because of that, my team maintained consistently high morale and an excellent service record.
Another phenomenon both experiences taught me was the benefit that doing good gives to team interaction. People that work together on a project they believe in tend to have higher camaraderie and work together more efficiently. This probably has several causes: they are inevitably like-minded people drawn to the same cause, and they receive positive reinforcement as they see each other playing out the individual benefits I mentioned above. People who are enthusiastic and enjoy what they do tend to like and work well with others who do the same, additionally gratification in assignments will drive focused attention to the project, all of which increase efficiencies.
All of this is fairly straightforward: it's no secret that we want our team members to care about what they do. But it is one thing to want something and quite another to have it. How do we instill this atmosphere in our business? The first and most important step is to have a business worth believing in. That means your goal has to be to provide superior goods or services that actually help people, not simply to make money. Secondly, you must clearly show your team members how your business does that. Third, they need to know their place in the system and how they contribute. Finally, they need to have active participation in improving the process. When team members believe that their active participation has a real positive effect in the world, they'll naturally gain that enthusiasm that helps them do the best job they can.
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