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  • Writer's picturePaul Cho

Can our work be meaningful?

Updated: May 28, 2023

What does work mean to you? Do you approach your current job with a sense of purpose and meaning? How would it make a difference if we all approached our work with a sense of meaning and purpose?


I remember a bad experience when making an insurance claim for my mother-in-law. While shopping in a retail store, she fell and injured herself. Speaking with the insurance claim agent on the phone was a nightmare. The agent seemed more interested in ending the claim than helping my mother-in-law. It was clear that the company handling the claim did not have a sense of purpose or meaning driving their work.


In The Leadership Challenge, James and Barry discuss Nancy's experience as the Vice President of Trustmark Companies, which provides disability and long-term care benefits. Nancy faced the daunting task of demonstrating the potential for her team to make a difference in people's lives. To accomplish this, she crafted a message and posted it throughout the company.


I dream of a place here in our office, where the sales team maintains respect and confidence in our decisions not just today but tomorrow and always; the constant challenges to our decisions just don't exist. Where our insureds trust our decisions and feel our genuine commitment to serving them well in their greatest time of need. Where our customers have confidence that your decision was contractual, yes, but more importantly ethically correct and sound... I dream of a place where growth and opportunities are massive because of the time and energy you invested with your commitments and therefore our opportunities and potential are endless. A place that no longer manages claims, but manages decisions on disability. A place that is no longer thought of as disability-claim experts, but disability experts. A place where our colleagues and government officials look for disability solutions. A place where Trustmark is the number-one company to serve as the assistance to all disability needs" (121).

Nancy's message to her team was a reminder that their work was more than just handling claims; it was about making a difference in people's lives. By emphasizing the purpose and meaning behind their work and its potential to positively impact real people, Nancy was able to create a positive morale within the company. This message, embodied by the team, enabled them to surpass their annual targets for many years.


So, how can we find meaning and purpose in the work that we do?


(1) Consider how your work makes a difference in the world.


For example, when I worked as an accountant at a small firm, I viewed my role as an opportunity to assist small business owners in managing their finances. This enabled them to focus on their core business areas, create value, and contribute to the service of the world. Every job has a noble purpose at its core. What is the noble purpose of your work? How does it make a difference and add value to the world?


(2) Consider how your work is making a difference in the lives of people.


While working as a building manager, I took the opportunity to build relationships with the tenants. When tenants went through difficult life circumstances, they always came to me for support and guidance. How about your work? In what ways is it making a difference in people's lives?



A friend, who is a mortgage broker, once shared a story with me. He had a client who wasn't fully prepared to buy a home, but he helped the client from step 0 to the final step to ensure the client was ready to get approved for a mortgage. As a result, the client was able to buy the home and make their dream of home ownership come true. After this experience, my friend said to me,

Hey Paul, I can finally say I am not just doing this business to make a living, but to actually help people's dreams come true!

I personally believe that every legal, ethical, and moral profession has a sacred value in the world. So, how are you making a difference in the world through your work? And, how are you making a difference in the lives of people through your work? Discover the purpose and meaning of your work. It will make a difference not only to the people you serve but to you as well!


Bibliography

Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge. John Wily & Sons, Incorporated, 2017.

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