The Secret of Meaningful roles

There is a clamor for meaningful roles today. Meaning in work seems like the magic pill for all problems organizations are facing today.

  • Employees are looking for meaning in their roles and
  • Leaders want to offer meaningful roles to their employees

Couple of days back I was writing speech for a leader, and lo behold… I wrote about the urgent need to create meaningful roles in the organization. As I wrote, I wondered, “What is a meaningful role?”

I typed my question on the omniscient Google. The search led to several links, yet I didn’t get any straightforward answer.

So, I went inwards and reflected on times when I found my role meaningful and when I didn’t. Few aspects clearly stood out:

  1. Belonging was at the very core; I felt accepted and had a deep connection with the people and the organization I was working with. Work was my second home.
  • Making a difference larger than myself. I could see how my work positively impacted people (at times just one person), the function, and sometimes the organization. My deepest meaning came when I knew that I created something – a process, a system, an institution – that will survive me…

When I see the pictures or read about the institution I contributed to in my past avatars, my heart swells with joy even today. Doesn’t matter that I am not associated with it anymore or no one is likely to remember me..

  • End to end picture – the sense of completion / closure was always critical. I was one tiny piece in a large jigsaw puzzle. But the big picture with clarity on my small part in it brought the energy, inspiration and meaning to what I was doing.
  • Search for it – meaning is never obvious and can rarely be served on a platter. Of course, my managers and peers helped by bringing right lens, but I had to use them and see the connections. Meaning can even come from a small task we do.

Let me clarify this with a small example, we send letter of appreciation signed by the Chairman to leaders as they retire after long service. The letters are written by my team. While writing itself is easy, gathering all the necessary information is quite tedious. Over time, it tends to get monotonous. The meaning is significant, if we visualize the joy it would bring to the employee on his / her last day of professional life, as he / she steps into second innings of life!

I would close by saying that the drawing meaning from work is a deeply personal journey. The same role can bring meaning or become meaningless – depending on our sense of belongingness and ability to look for it!

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