leadership meaning makingWhen we experience really difficult times at work, the importance of the meaning of the work we do comes to the fore. It’s only when we feel the work is meaningful, that it makes sense to work long hours and persevere through difficulties. Otherwise, why not just give up?

The value of meaning does not stop there. Research has shown that employees who feel their work has meaning, work harder, longer and more creatively than those that don’t. This is reflected in the organisation by higher rates of customer commitment and investor interest, which enhances organisational competitiveness and the organisations sustainability (reference here).

This is where leading with meaning comes in. Effective leaders help their team members engage personally with the organisation’s challenges, by helping them find meaning in their work. When team members feel they are doing “good work” with like-minded colleagues, team and personal resilience is enhanced in the face of uncertainty, unwanted change and even adversity.

What can you do as a leader to lead with meaning to create engagement and resilience?

Here is a five-step questioning process which will help identify meaning at work for either your entire organisation or for just for your team:

1. What products and/or services do we produce?
2. Who receives our products and/or services initially and what is their ultimate use?
3. What need do our products and/or services fulfil?
4. How does what we do make the world a better place?
5. What describes our team’s greater purpose or meaning?

This is how the EXCO of an IT company used the process to identify meaning for their entire organisation:

1. What products and/or services do we produce?

Off-the-shelf and bespoke IT products.

2. Who receives our products and/or services?

Organisations needing workable solutions to data related problems or data processing needs they have.

3. What ultimate need do our products and/or services fulfil?

Our IT products enable client organisations’ processes to become more robust, safer and efficient. This in turn enables client organisations to more easily achieve their goals and objectives.

4. How does what we do make the world a better place?

Personal and organisational information is safer and organisations are more efficient, which enables the economy to grow and society in general to prosper.

5. What is our team’s greater purpose meaning?

We provide IT products and services which help client organisations and ultimately our economy and society grow and prosper.

A 30-person Accounts Payable team, working within a large financial services company, also used the process to identify meaning in the work they do:

1. What products and/or services do we produce?

We make payments for goods and services rendered to our company against time standards and with discounts applied.

2. Who receives our products and/or services?

Vendors are paid accurately, on time and in line with the relevant time standards and discounts.

3. What ultimate need do our products and/or services fulfil?

• Our organisation has accurate and timely payment of accounts payable.
• Our organisations financials are accurate
• Our organisation is able to make well-founded financial decisions.
• Our vendors are assured of payment which enables them to run their businesses in a more financially stable manner.

4. How does what we do make the world a better place?

• The decisions our organisation makes are based on accurate financial information regarding Accounts Payable.
• Our organisation, the board and shareholders have certainty that the financial information they receive about Accounts Payable is accurate and up-to-date

5. What is our team’s greater meaning?

We provide financial certainty to our organisation and vendors regarding payments which enables them to plan and operate their businesses ensuring sustainability to the benefit of all stakeholders.


Use these five steps to identify meaning for your team or organisation. In times of adversity and uncertainty, it will become a rallying point for your people. The outcome will be enhanced personal team resilience, stability and engagement — it’s a great way of making the difficult times really pay-off for you and your people.

Resilient Leadership WorkshopResilient Leadership Workshop
Leaders learn how to keep stress positive. They assess their Team Members strategy-fitness and learn three resilience coaching techniques. The outcome is the leaders are better able to deliver organisational strategy and coach their team members when their resilience lags (read more here).

Building Resilience workshop

Building Resilience Workshop

Team members and specialists learn how to bounce back from difficult organisation and life events, such as significant change, setbacks and hardship. The outcome is they are able to resist stressful experiences impacting on their job productivity and stay calm and healthy (read more here).

Mental Strength training

Mental Strength Training

Mental Strength training helps people keep task-focused and persistent. Mental Strength training teaches the process and tools to remain composed under pressure and less vulnerable to emotional slumps at work and at home (read more here).

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