When I was a Psychology undergraduate I was required to do a one week work experience assignment in a large mental health facility. On my first day I was asked to report to the Clinical Services Manager.
When I arrived all bright-eyed and busy tailed the receptionist directed me a large waiting room. The room was empty of people except for one fellow in his mid 30’s who was diligently sweeping the floor. I sat there for probably 10 minutes without uttering a word as the chap glided by with his broom, then on one of his transitions past my feet he said in a confiding manner
“Just remember it is the 28th July and you will be fine”
I knew that was todays date but my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why and he said…
“That’s the first question they always ask you here”
I said thanks and that was the end of our conversation.
Eventually I was summoned to the manager’s office and with a mixture youthful bravado and a nervous wish that he didn’t confuse me a new admission I not too subtly dropped something lame into the into the conversation like:
“I can’t believe how quickly July has flown. Gee its the 28th already”.
The manager chuckled immediately and said:
“So you have met Vince”
He then proceeded to tell how Vince told every visitor the same thing and that it was his way of contributing. It made him feel good.
That was my first time I seriously thought about the human need to contribute and it has stuck with me ever since.
As a species we are hard-wired to contribute to and to accept contributions from others. And that it a pretty commendable feature of us humans (though the way some behave you might think it been lost somewhere along the way).
We feel good when we give. Our own self-esteem goes up and on occasions we learn to appreciate what we have.
Leaders of organisations are in a great position to get a contribution fix – leading a group of people towards a shared goal is a great experience.
But with this satisfaction comes responsibility. As a leader the way you structure your organisation and develop, train and communicate with your people can have a tremendous impact on whether your staff share the same exhilaration from having that sense of contribution.
Regrettably it is an area leaders often fail in. How often have you read an exit interview report where a departing employee has said something like:
“I didn’t feel like it was making a difference” or “My job seemed pointless”
So ask yourself: Are our employees able to see how their daily efforts contribute to the cause? If not why not. And more fundamentally if there is no link whatsoever, why does that position exist in your not for profit?
Author: This post is by Chris Gandy MAPS, the Founder and Principal of Cause and Effective (www.causeandeffective.info) – a group utilising their knowledge and experience to help cause-based organisations make even greater social impacts. You can now follow Chris on Twitter.