Producing Results Blog

Did You Know That Mowing the Lawn Can Lead to a Cure for Cancer?

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If you’re wondering why your team doesn’t seem to be engaged in their work (which, according to Gallup, describes 68% of the American workforce), it may be because they just don’t give a crap about their jobs.

And that’s partly on you.

Among the needs that virtually all of us share is the need for purpose. We all like to feel like we’re a part of something bigger. And, sadly, many leaders do an absolutely terrible job of helping their teams recognize that sense of purpose.

We all share the need for purpose. We all like to feel like we’re a part of something bigger. Click To Tweet

I remember meeting a 20-something at an event a few years ago. When I asked him the obligatory (but not very original) “What do you do for a living?” question, his answer was, “I help cure cancer.”

Now that’s a sense of purpose, right?

Upon further questioning, it turned out that what he really did was mow the lawn at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. But the way he saw it, he wasn’t just mowing the lawn. He was helping to create an environment in which doctors and researchers could be inspired to do their best work. And he did that by making the lawn look beautiful. That was his contribution.

He really was helping to cure cancer.

Now, if a 20-something guy on a lawnmower can define his purpose as “curing cancer,” then surely you can help your team discover a sense of purpose as well.

In his wonderful book Nine Minutes on Monday, James Robbins asks the question What job has our product or service been hired to do?
What job has your product or service been hired to do? #ProducingResults Click To Tweet

Robbins tells the story of a cosmetics store owner who hired him to help her employees boost their sales. He told the employees that cosmetics are just a product that is hired to do a job, and he asked them what job they thought that was. In other words, he asked, “Why do you think women buy makeup?” Their answer was, “To feel more beautiful.”

As he later asked the owner, “Which do you think is more motivating: ‘We sell cosmetics, and we’re trying to sell X amount of product this month,’ or ‘We help women feel beautiful’?” [Note to grammarians: The punctuation at the end of that sentence looks ridiculous. It’s probably incorrect. So what should it look like?]

A big reason why 68% of the workforce is not engaged in their work is because they’re mowing lawns instead of curing cancer. They’re selling cosmetics instead of helping women feel more beautiful.

No matter what business you and your team are in, the end result is probably the sale of a product or a service. If you want your team to be more engaged, you have to help them discover a sense of purpose. And a good way to do that is to ask the question:

What job has our product or service been hired to do?

If you want your team to be more engaged, you have to help them discover a sense of purpose. #Leadership Click To Tweet

If you have trouble with that question, try this one:

What, for the customer, is the end result of using our product or service?

The answer to these two questions may be the key to a more engaged team.

The answer to these two questions may be the key to a more engaged team. #Leadership Click To Tweet
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About the Author:

For 15 years, Executive Producer Bill Stainton, CSP led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results--in THEIR world and with THEIR teams.
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