6 Ways to Find Rewarding Work

People Value Meaning More Than Money

6 Ways to Find Rewarding Work

People Value
Meaning More
Than Money

A Job Fills Your Pocket

epic work fills your soul.

This may come as a surprise…

most employees value meaningful work more than money.

According to the Harvard Business Review, more than 90% of employees would be willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning and significance at work. Specifically, 2,000+ respondents—workers spanning all ages and salary groups—said that they would forego an average of 23% of their future lifetime earnings in order to have a meaningful job until they retire. Bottom line, meaningful work is a huge workplace motivator; employee performance and engagement improves when work is meaningful.

Too often, companies focus on the HOW. “How do we get people to be accountable and change? How do we train and motivate people to increase job performance? How do our employees align with our company mission statement?”

We should be focusing on WHY people work. When people find something noble and heroic to be part of, their lives and work take on greater meaning and significance. They become more impassioned, more willing to think like owners of the business and more committed to the growth of the enterprise. And employee engagement increases.

What influences whether…

  • you loath or love going to work?

  • work is fulfilling or frustrating?

  • you are thriving, flatlining or declining at work?

These are not easy questions to answer…

because one size doesn’t fit all. We do know rewarding work and engagement go hand in hand. High levels of engagement lead to rewarding work. On the other hand, it’s hard to remain engaged in work that is frustrating and unfulfilling.

Engagement is about being intellectually AND emotionally committed and fulfilled at work. In other words, it’s about coming to work with a desire to strive, say and stay.

  • Strive is a desire to work hard to do the best you can.

  • Say is a desire to say good things about your work and workplace.

  • Stay is a desire to want to stay because your work and workplace fulfill you.

For more than 30 years…

Gallup has studied and measured engagement. They have identified 12 core elements linked to employee engagement and business outcomes. The Gallup Q12 Questions are some of the best predictors of individual and team performance at work. As a review here they are:

  • Do you know what is expected of you at work?

  • Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?

  • At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

  • In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  • Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?

  • Is there someone at work who encourages your development?

  • At work, do your opinions seem to count?

  • Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?

  • Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?

  • Do you have a best friend at work?

  • In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?

  • In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

The Bad News

Unfortunately, the majority of people who respond to Gallup’s Q12 Survey (more than 35 million employees around the world) are not engaged at work. Annually over that last two decades, Gallup’s engagement studies are disappointing, to say the least. Only about 30% of people are fully engaged at work; most people are either not engaged or actively disengaged. People who are not engaged are people who quit but stay. We call these people, Dead People Working (DPW™). They’re physically present, but they show up DOA (dead on arrival). They leave on time, but they are emotionally, intellectually and psychologically checked-out.

This is not okay, you were not wired to be a DPW! You were not wired to psychologically quit a job but physically stay. On the contrary, planted in you are God-given gifts, talents, passions, dreams and desires. And although you may not be able to control or influence all 12 of Gallup’s engagement indicators, here are six significant factors you can influence to improve your engagement level at work so you too, can thrive as a result of doing rewarding work.

  1.   Grow Your DQ!
  2.   Beware, Attitudes are Contagious
  3.   Be a Feedback Junkie
  4.   Play to Your Genius
  5.   Solve Problems that Matter
  6.   Know Your Calling, Your Cause

  1. grow your DQ!

We measure IQ (intelligence), EQ (emotional intelligence) and even SQ (spiritual intelligence) but what about DQ, Dream Quotient? Did you know that 80% of American’s DON’T have dreams, and we are not talking about the dreaming you do while sleeping, we’re talking about life dreams, ambitious goals, your vision for your future? Of the 20% who do dream, 16% do not write their dreams down. So who do you think is more likely to achieve their dreams? Yep, the 4% who write their dreams down as a practical and powerful strategy for holding themselves accountable.

What about you, what is your DQ? Are you writing your dreams down? Or have your dreams been distracted, put on hold, lost and forgotten?

These are important questions because work is more rewarding when it is also a place where you’re able to realize your dreams. How do we know this is true?

Over the years we’ve worked with extraordinary leaders

and most are very gifted at helping people see that their job as more than a paycheck, but a means to a greater end, and that greater end begins with a big bold dream. These great leaders know that when you have a dream and go to work knowing the work you do every day gets you one step closer to realizing that dream, work takes on new meaning and significance. Here is a vivid example of how a job can become a source of meaning and significance. We wrote about Phil Dean in our book, GUTS! Companies that Blow the Doors off Business-As-Usual.

Phil Dean is one of the most successful Stanley Steemer franchisors in the nation. He is a gutsy leader and a straight shooter who understands the importance of his recruits’ attitudes and emotions. Dean honestly admits it’s not that hard to learn how to clean carpets. He recruits people who want to better themselves and their families by joining an organization that’s dedicated to helping them make their dreams come true.

Typically, due to the nature of the job, the company hires young men fresh out of high school, whose minds are filled with what Dean calls “the head trash” of adolescent experiences: low grades, the loss of college-bound friends, failure to make the football team, romantic defeats, and their inability to get more than entry-level jobs. Unsurprisingly, they feel like losers. “Our orientation teaches them to clean carpets,” Dean said, “but its central mission is to convince them that they can be winners. We put as much effort into attitude as we do into aptitude.”

“Our orientation teaches them to clean carpets, but its central mission is to convince them they can be winners.”

Phil and Susan Dean

Uncovering The Dream

After their first month at Dean’s franchise, the new hires, in groups of three or four, spend six hours with Dean and his wife in a powerful orientation process. The sessions start with a two-hour, wide-ranging discussion of everyone’s values, goals and dreams. The Deans strive to create a safe, comfortable environment, where everyone feels secure enough to confide in the group.

Next, a pile of magazines, glue sticks, scissors and poster boards are brought out, and the whole group, including the Deans, builds “dream boards”, otherwise known as vision boards, collages made up of pictures cut from the magazines which represent each person’s goals, hopes and courageous aspirations. Examples of ideas for these vision boards could include a photo of a rap artist driving a Rolls Royce, a cozy cabin nestled among trees or a man mentoring a child.

The dream boards are sized to fit on the inside door of each employee’s locker where they will serve as daily reminders that Stanley Steemer encourages dreams and helps employees realize their dreams.

When they finish, the Deans lead a discussion of how the franchise can help make each worker’s dreams come true. The dream boards offer remarkable psychological insight (you become what you think about) and show profound caring on the part of the Deans and their commitment to helping their people create their own mission statements.

This technique could be powerful for you, too

And you don’t have to wait for a boss or an executive to lead you through this process. Create a dream board, post it and allow it to serve as a daily reminder of the dreams your job, talents and skills are helping you accomplish.

The book of Proverbs says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” The point is, if there is no dream or if the dream lacks a plan, then it’s easy to lose focus and hope. And without hope and focus, without a compelling North Star, Moon Shot or Dream Board, your work can easily become mundane.

“What dream has you? Is your dream vivid and visual enough?”

2. Beware — Attitudes are Contagious

Attitude will determine the quality of your life and your relationships. Attitudes are contagious. The question is, are the attitudes of the people around you worth catching or are they toxic? Do the people are you exhaust or inspire you? Are they critics or coaches and advocates?

Be warned, you are known by the company you keep. That company can draw you up and help develop your potential or it can drag you down and suck the life, energy and potential out of you. The kind of people we want to work with are people who:

  • dream big

  • have fun

  • get shit done

They are the kind of people who believe in us, challenge us, draw us up and lift us. They won’t run when we speak our truth. They believe in being rigorous and disciplined and still having fun. At the end of the day, they love to make a difference and be accountable. 

They don’t moan, groan or make excuses; they make shit happen. They refuse to play small and expect the same in return.

And what about your attitude?

What kind of reputation are you building in your organization right now? If someone were to examine your attitude and behavior over the last 18 months, would your example suggest your attitude is worth catching? Your work ethic and your attitude is your signature, why not make it a masterpiece?

Do you nourish new ideas from others or are you a “yea but…” kind of person? Do you encourage diverse thinking or are you an “if it wasn’t my idea I can’t get behind it” kind of person? Are you a focus forward, “how do I become part of the solution” type of person or do you ruminate on the problem and who’s to blame for it? Do you see the world from the perspective of scarcity? That is, “there’s only so much to go around so I have to look out for me.” Or, do you see it from abundance? That is, God’s resources are unlimited and he’s always been generous, so why not be generous to others?

Do you have a propensity to look beyond the grumpiness, arrogance, resentment, cynicism, silence, indifference and ineffectiveness of co-workers to their potential, to something redeemable, or do you let their dysfunction decide how you are going to be? In general, are you focused on what you can control or do you complain about things you can’t control?

Let’s be truthful. No one bats 100% on these questions. We all have good and bad days. But when people at work look at the overall trajectory of the attitude you bring to the game, what do they see? Does it compel them to want to work with you or do they go into avoidance mode?

3. Be A Feedback Junkie

Rewarding work requires leading wherever you are planted. What does that mean? Leadership is not a title and it is not a position. Leadership is not age, gender or race-related. Leadership is about seeing the potential in yourself and others and having the courage to develop that potential. Real-time feedback holds us accountable for tapping into our potential and performing at the top of our game. 

Think about it, your ability to engage in rewarding work depends on feedback that is intended to develop your potential while doing the work, not 3-6 months later. Feedback matters. It’s unfulfilling to walk away at the end of a day or a project wondering if your contributions added value. Receiving feedback six months after the fact is not timely, it delays your development.

Feedback junkies surround themselves with people who are willing to share truth in kindness. They are coachable. They don’t ask for input and then dismiss it. We have a term for those people. They’re called ASKHOLES. People who are coachable take feedback seriously and then, apply it to change and improve. 

Whether you are on the giving or receiving end, feedback should always be delivered as a gift, not as a weapon. Feedback should be a suggestion for improvement, never to shame or blame. Here’s a mantra, essentially a boundary that we try to live by for giving and receiving feedback: 

“Say what you mean, mean what you say, but never say it mean.”

4. Play to Your Genius

Engagement happens when you are intellectually and emotionally committed at work. However, we believe the work you’re engaged in should also be an expression of the gifts God planted in you and the passions that drive you. There’s a level that’s even more rewarding than ‘engaged’ at work, it’s being ‘fully expressed’ at work!

Work that fulfills you addresses your deepest desires and employs your most enduring gifts. Passion grows when your gifts align with your desires while you’re making a valuable contribution. Most people who are fulfilled in life spend time doing things they are gifted at, things they are engineered to excel at genetically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. A few years ago, we sat down with Garth Brooks who summed this up perfectly: 

“Passion is stronger than any machine man can create. It actually gives a mortal person wings.”   

When you believe you are doing what you’re good at, it is far more likely you’ll walk away at the end of the day eager to do more. Doing what you’re good at is using the talents, gifts, skills and experiences in your toolbox to achieve your dreams and solve problems that matter. 

Playing to your genius, being fully expressed at work is about working in your sweet spot. If you want to do work that is rewarding, figure out how to spend more time working in your SWEET SPOT. 

Start by challenging yourself with these three questions

  • What are my natural, God-given gifts and talents – what am I good at?
    What comes easily to you? What do you do that feels effortless? What kind of work or activities do you get affirmed for? There’s nothing worse than trying to do work you are not good at and were not made for. So, figure out what’s in your “wheelhouse” and play to that.
  • What am I passionate about – what turns me on?
    Rewarding work requires more than talent and competence, it presumes there is a corresponding, deep-seated desire to apply our talent in a particular way. Rewarding work assumes a love for the game, a love for the project, a love for the role—despite the parts we dislike. The challenge with this part of the sweet spot is that we often get caught in the tension/trade-off between what matters and what works, between money and meaning. We rationalize our behavior by claiming, “It would be great to someday be able to find work that I’m passionate about, but right now I have to be practical, I have bills to pay, I have to do whatever works.”
  • Where can I make the greatest contribution – what needs to be done?
    Rewarding work is not a hedonistic call to self-indulgence, it’s about using our giftedness (talents and passions) to serve some part of the world and make it better. You can be both good at what you do and love your job, but if you aren’t doing the work that the organization needs you to do (What needs to be done?)—if you aren’t truly adding value and making a significant contribution to the business’s goals—then you will not be in the sweet spot. It’s not practical to think you can get paid for something that doesn’t need to be done and is not considered a valuable contribution.

Our premise is this: While working in your sweet spot you will experience more life at work. Your sweet spot is that place where you are using your GIFTS AND TALENTS, playing to your PASSIONS and doing WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE.

“Sweet Spot: the place where you are using your GIFTS AND TALENTS, playing to your PASSIONS and doing WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE.”

5. Solve Problems That Really Matter

We’d like to suggest that the work you do—in fact, everything you do—is a statement about you. Your work matters. How do we know? Because work is not meaningless. All work has meaning. All work can make a difference. The difference is in how we choose to define our work. Tom Morris, author of If Harry Potter Ran General Electric, says, “Every job productive of any good can be given either a trivial description or a noble description. Ultimate motivation requires that we have in our minds a noble description of what we do!”

The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can begin to change your life. To know that your work counts is to know that YOU count. As we said, the projects you are working on today are statements about who you are, what you think and how you feel.

This begs the obvious question: What do YOUR projects say about YOU? What do they say about your attitude? About the brand you are building within your organization? How you answer determines how alive and engaged you are and how meaningful your work is. It has an impact on the levels of passion, enthusiasm and commitment you bring to your work.

Five years from now, will anyone remember or care about what you are doing today? 

Are you working on projects and solving problems that really matter? Have you done anything spectacular in the last five years that you will tell stories about for the rest of your life? Is your work worth asking about and is it worth talking about? Does it stimulate curiosity and intrigue on the part of others?

These are tough, sobering questions. But they must be addressed if you want rewarding work.

6. Know Your Calling, Your Cause

Another important factor influencing rewarding work that is closely aligned with doing work that matters is connecting your work to a calling, a cause, that enriches customers and improves the community. Today, everyone is increasingly concerned about people, planet and profit. If the core values of your company’s mission statement aren’t tied to a heroic cause, your business may be doomed. Companies that define themselves as cause-oriented stand out and attract the best talent. They have better employee engagement, better customer loyalty and ultimately, stronger profitability and growth.

And to be clear, we’re not talking about nonprofits only. We’re talking about businesses that are committed to Ethical Capitalism, they are making a profit while making a difference. The data suggests that when you work for a company that is for-profit and purpose, your work becomes far more rewarding. 

When you know your work enriches lives and makes the world better, it becomes a calling. A job fills your pocket, a calling fuels your spirit and fills your soul.

Here are a few examples

If you work for an insurance provider in the call center, your job is answering the phone.
Your calling is…to be a lifeline of hope and help when life unexpected happens. You are in the business of future-proofing individuals and families.

Our son works for a high-end custom door manufacturer. He makes and finishes doors as a part-time job while he’s in college pursuing a career in aviation. Dylan’s job is to make doors every day.
The calling is…designing dream doors that invite people into dream homes.

One of our long-term clients is The National Fire Sprinkler Association. A large majority of NFSA’s members are contractors. Their job is to install fire sprinklers in homes and commercial buildings.
Their calling is…Fire sprinklers buy time and time saves lives.

When you know your work saves lives, enhances the American dream, provides a lifeline of hope and help, you’re far more willing to arrive early, stay late, invest your talents, grow your skills and go the extra mile.

A cause, a bigger “why” inspires you to OWN the work, PERSONALIZE the work and ELEVATE the work because you know your work makes a difference.  

Think about your work

and how you serve customers. What would it look like if you described your job as a calling that elevates and enriches the customers you serve? A cause worth fighting for? 

Our list is not comprehensive but it’s a start. How will you “choreograph” your way into thriving in these six areas:

  1. What Dream has you? How will you grow your DQ?
  2. Is your attitude worth catching?
  3. What will you do to become a feedback junkie?
  4. How can you play to your genius, to your sweet spot?
  5. Are you solving problems that matter?
  6. How can you link your work to a noble cause that enriches lives, improved society?

By rethinking these 6 factors influencing work, you can avoid the SUNDAY NIGHT SYNDROME.

The Sunday night syndrome is the sinking, sad, depressing feeling you get in anticipation of going to work on Monday morning. Sadly, it is all too common and affects countless people who dread going to work that isn’t rewarding. In contrast, when you’re thriving at work you don’t live for weekends, vacations and holidays. Your work becomes an adventure, an arena for doing epic shit and a place where you gain meaning, significance, joy and fulfillment. 

Let’s face it, rewarding work is something everyone desires, but as this post has noted, fear and resignation get in the way.

Finding work that is rewarding and fulfilling is only one of six important life dimensions that you must thrive in to lead and live Epic.

Grow Resilience  |  Do Brave Work  |  Lead & Live EPIC

Rewarding Work is one of 6 life dimensions we explore in our new online course CRUSH FEAR. We’ll guide you through 8 life-changing modules designed to help you thrive in work and in life.