If I posted the following job description, would you be excited (or even willing) to sign up for it?
It’s located in the southern part of Georgia, near the coast, and takes place in the month of August. On average, it’s 90 degrees and 100% humidity during the day, so when you walk outside, you automatically feel like you’re sticky and baking at the same time—like a human cinnamon roll in an oven (minus the nice smell). And you’re constantly being swarmed by gnats. Unfortunately, bug spray helps minimally.
The actual job is to work outside in the South Georgia heat, all day long, and fill bags full of sand. Your work schedule will consist of 10-12 hour days of manual labor, multiple days in a row. Pay will be $8.00 an hour.
My guess is that you’re probably not.
OK, let me change the job description a little bit.
You have family that lives in Savannah, Georgia, and you begin to see news reports of a hurricane headed their way. Their house is at risk, but one thing that could help is putting a barrier to hold back the storm surge. They need help to fill bags full of sand as quickly as possible to help save their home and valuables from this catastrophic storm.
It’s still August, so the conditions outside would remain the same. Also, you will still work long days in the heat—there is a lot of work to be done.
Would you be willing to help?
My guess is that you’re not only willing, but you’d probably volunteer your time, your work, and your efforts without expecting any compensation in return.
David Salyers, retired Vice President of Marketing at Chick-fil-A, spoke to our team a couple of weeks ago and used this illustration to emphasize this simple truth: If we focus on the task, motivation will be tough to find. If we focus on the purpose, we will be inspired regardless of the task.
This important principle is one employers and managers often forget. It’s something that pastors frequently overlook. It’s one that volunteer organizations fail to reiterate. When the purpose is clear, the mundane becomes meaningful.
For most of us, the purpose of our daily jobs doesn’t feel as noble as saving our family’s home from a hurricane. But for every single one of us, even our most mundane tasks and activities help accomplish a bigger purpose.
Maybe that purpose is to serve your customers well, to add value to your neighborhood, to make life easier for your coworkers, to provide for your family, to offer a life-saving medical service, to help families and individuals find a home, or to make a way for more individuals to connect around the world.
Struggling to get excited about the task ahead of you? Work to connect the mundane task to the meaningful outcome. If you’re leading people—the business owner, the pastor, the manager, the volunteer organizer—you need to help the people you lead see how their work contributes to the purpose of the organization. Do the hard work for them of connecting the mundane to the meaningful.
So whether you are stepping into your first job or you are a senior leader in your organization, I hope that you will strive to help yourself and the people you lead to connect the work to its bigger purpose.