Written By Chris Ihrig

Published on June 14, 2023

Leaders are struggling with a pressing issue: team member stagnation. 

Too often, team members can seem disengaged, flat, or even “entitled,” showing little desire to push beyond their comfort zones and invest themselves fully in their roles. 

This not only stifles growth and innovation, but it also weakens organizational culture and overall productivity. That makes it a challenge that demands urgent attention.

The question is, where should leaders start?

A powerful starting point lies in the very core of your organization: its purpose. By articulating this purpose clearly and showing how every role and task contributes to it, leaders can help team members see that their work truly matters. This approach can also rekindle motivation, sparking a cycle of engagement, productivity, and culture strengthening.

Understanding and Communicating Organizational Purpose

Organizational purpose is your ‘why.’ It’s the core of your business and guides every strategic decision. 

Defining this purpose requires deep reflection about the unique value you aim to create and the impact you want to have in your sector, your community, or even the world.

Communication is equally vital. An organization’s purpose should be crystal clear to every team member. A shared understanding can be nurtured through regular meetings, training sessions, and internal communications that consistently reflect your purpose.

Keeping this purpose present is a continuous process. Consider integrating it into performance reviews, strategy discussions, and project kick-offs. Regularly spotlight examples of how teams and individuals contribute to the purpose and celebrate those successes. In this way, your organizational purpose becomes a guiding star, constantly visible and orienting everyone’s efforts.

Cultivating Team Members Motivation

Understanding what drives your team members is crucial in this process. Two main types of motivation come into play: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s about deriving satisfaction and enjoyment from the work itself. This can be cultivated by providing challenging tasks, presenting opportunities for personal growth, or aligning a role with personal interests and passions.

Extrinsic motivation, in contrast, comes from outside factors such as rewards or recognition. This can take the form of salary bumps, promotions, or even a simple ‘thank you’ for a job well done.

An optimal motivational balance often involves a mix of both, tailored to the specific needs and preferences of individual team members. Motivation is unique to the individual, so take the time to listen to your team members about what motivates them.

Connecting Daily Work to Organizational Impact

Another opportunity for leaders is to bridge the gap between team member motivation and organizational purpose. Show your team how their daily tasks contribute to the big picture.

For instance, a software engineer might not see how their coding work impacts the organization. However, if they understand that their code is essential for a product that makes users’ lives easier or contributes to societal improvements, this can transform their perception of their role.

The same goes for individual impacts. Team members need to see how their daily work allows them to grow personally and professionally, understanding how it aligns with their long-term career goals, and how it contributes to their intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

When team members understand and connect with your organization’s purpose, a powerful shift happens.

Engagement levels surge as team members start to see how their efforts contribute to something larger than themselves. Productivity increases because motivated, engaged team members put more energy and creativity into their work.

In this enriched environment, team members are more likely to buy into organizational changes and initiatives because they understand their value. This buy-in further strengthens your culture, creating a more cohesive, aligned workforce.

The Power of Purpose

In the end, team members need more than a paycheck to stay engaged—they need a purpose. They need to understand and connect with the impact of their work, both for the organization and for themselves.

As a leader, showing this connection is one of the most powerful tools you can wield. By effectively linking day-to-day work with the broader goals, mission, and values of the organization, you can reignite employee passion, fueling a cycle of engagement, productivity, and culture strengthening that will drive your organization to new heights.