How to Engage, Motivate Employees: Relentless Communication About Purpose

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by Terry Wall

Want to know what’s important to another person? Listen to what dominates that person’s conversation.

In a recent four minute shuttle ride to the airport parking, the shuttle driver talked nonstop about soccer. He was so into it, so passionate about soccer, I thought he’d juggle my suitcase with his knees.

If you’re talking about something a lot, that “something” must be important to you.


The Idea: It’s why every leader, at every organizational level, should “communicate relentlessly” about Purpose.

Earlier this week when I was working with a group of managers, they asked for a sure-fire way to get employees to work harder and smarter. My answer was, “Start talking about your purpose.”

Employees get engaged in their work when they feel their work is part of something bigger, something noble and compelling, a purpose that makes a difference. So if your company (or team, or division) has a purpose, you, as the leader, need to start talking about it.

Not that you need to be like the shuttle driver, talking nonstop. But you do need to communicate it relentlessly, and tie everything you and your employees do, everything you measure and treasure, to that purpose.

What to Do: Communicate your purpose relentlessly, and in the right way, with passion and sincerity, and you’ll find that your employees are talking about it, and eventually going to great lengths to fulfill that purpose.

Examples: One of my clients saw this for herself when she applied this principle to a specific goal: Taking her company from $20 million in sales to $50 million in sales in a 3-5 year period.

So she started talking about it, emphasizing it in staff meetings, in memos, in general conversations. One day, when two of her direct reports were discussing a process change, she overhead one say, “Changing this process will help us get to the $50 million.”

Internally the woman did a fist pump worthy of Tiger Woods, saying to herself, “Yesss, they’re getting it!”

The same applies to you and your purpose. If you want others to talk about it, YOU have to talk about it.

Another client started emphasizing the purpose of his company and noticed that not only were employees talking in terms of the purpose, they were taking pride in their appearance and uniforms, and were spending their own time keeping their trucks washed and polished.

The shuttle driver doesn’t make a conscious effort to communicate relentlessly about soccer; he just does it.

Application: In leadership, if communicating relentlessly about purpose doesn’t come naturally, we’d better start practicing this behavior, so that it becomes a part of who we are.

Remember that it’s not just the noble or grand purpose that people will pick up on. If your employees sense that your big purpose is cutting costs, they’ll focus on that, even when doing so is bad for the customer.

That’s why we have to be sure that our purpose is compelling, noble, grand.

Questions: What do your employees hear you emphasizing all the time? How is that affecting their behaviors and performance? How relentlessly do you emphasize purpose?

About the author

For information on public speaking/presentation skills, check out my next free webinar. The Killer Presentation Skills Webinar will definitely improve your abilities, with immediate improvement through 10 action items.

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Terry Wall–Accelerating Organizational Excellence through: Leadership Development, Facilitation & Strategic Direction, Team Building, Executive Coaching, Assessments & Surveys

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