The difference between making changes and creating change

Does your organization ignite the growth and individual potential of its members? Or does it inhibit them?

When examining the health of our organizations, it is all-too-tempting to turn to one of the most -tried-and-true measures of an organization's success, its mission statement.

"Do the things we do align with our organization's mission?"

Although the answer may be insightful, it is nonetheless insufficient.

Any time the answer to that question is "no," the organization's leaders-in-name will scramble to develop any number of solutions to surface-level problems.

But how often are they prepared to truly create change, rather than merely making changes?

In February, Gallup and Sharecare released the latest results from the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which measures the overall wellbeing of people living in the United States. Last year, the national score suffered its largest year-over-year decline since the index began in 2008. Roughly one-quarter of the US population is not thriving in any of the five areas of wellbeing, and another quarter is thriving in only one of the five areas, which include: Purpose, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community.

The index’s larger-than-ever tumble was led by its largest falls in two of those five dimensions of wellbeing: Purpose Wellbeing (liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals) and Social Wellbeing (having supportive relationships and love in your life).

What is going on in our groups, organizations, and teams? 

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, 85 percent of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. Less than two out of every ten employees is thriving in the workplace. 

If we look at these two research studies together, it is easy to come to the conclusion that our groups, organizations, and teams are failing to connect our work with our own larger sense of purpose, our most powerful and renewable source of motivation.

The problem with many of our organizations is that we are too busy developing strategies and identifying best practices that we miss opportunities to develop our people and identify ways to connect their best work to the mission of the organization.

We are no longer looking up at our hopes and our dreams, but instead we find ourselves looking down at our keyboards. We survive when we have the ability to thrive. 

But it does not have to be that way. We can change our organizations and thereby transform the people who are part of them. 

Contrary to what many may think, the mission of the organization is not its foundation. Its values are not the bedrock of the organization. The mission and the values are only ideas on the architect's blueprint. Without people who embody them, they have no power.

However, it is the actions and commitment of an organization's people on which the mission and values become the building blocks that provide the organization's security and strength. A comprehensive study of major corporations has shown that treating employees well leads them to work harder, be efficient, and do more for the company. 

Engaging our people in meaningful ways is no longer an option.

Instead of asking how the things you do reflect the organization's mission, ask yourself how you are providing opportunities for your people to reflect their best selves through their work on behalf of the organization's mission.

When our people see the best of themselves in fulfillment of the organization's mission, we will transform our organizations and the people who are part of them. 

Author's note: Parts of this post originally appeared in Building up without tearing down: How to cultivate heroic leadership in you and your organization, which was released Summer 2018.