A few years ago, I was visiting Disney World with my family. While waiting in line for the Peter Pan attraction, I watched the cast members (employees) as they helped each guest enter and sit in the small flying ships to begin the experience.
I noticed a very focused and cheerful cast member who was busy neither helping guests exit nor enter the ride. She was instead sprinkling each of the ships with invisible pixie dust, the substance that helped Peter Pan and others fly in the story. Following the same pattern for each ship, she took from her hand some imaginary pixie dust and gently spread it along the roll bar and across the seat of each flying ship.
The ultimate test came when a ship emerged that had tape across it with a sign “Out of Order.” I wondered what she was going to do with this ship, which was not worthy to carry any guests. To my surprise, she prepared that same ship with pixie dust just like the others! She didn’t look around to check to make sure others saw what she did. She just did it!
I don’t know if this pixie dust routine was expected of her or if it was her own invention. Regardless, she clearly understood why she was there — to create a magical experience for the guests! She knew her role, had fun with it, and delivered it with high engagement.
As I reflected on the coming New Year, I remembered that fun experience. I see it as a wonderful lesson in building engagement and purpose. Clarifying your individual purpose and desires and aligning them to your team’s mission is important to create full engagement—for you and for those you lead. Despite the “Out of Order” signs or other obstacles that come our way, knowing your purpose will enable your commitment to shine through.
My challenge to you is to define your personal purpose for this year. To help you do this, below are three questions you want to answer. The intersection of these questions will create your purpose for the year. Use this for yourself and for the members of your team.
Start with identifying the top 3-5 things you value or are most passionate about professionally, personally, or both.
Here are two examples: I recently coached a VP of Product Development and he loved ideas, trying new things out, and failing fast. We created a purpose statement for him around innovation and creating an environment of learning for his team.
Another example involves a former colleague who had a passion for marine life and protecting the oceans. Because of this, she is planning on volunteering with a non-profit that works with ocean conservation.
Instead of focusing on things you are not good at, identify 3-5 strengths or talents that bring you joy when you do them. What has helped you become successful at work? Think about moments when you lose track of time or when someone came up and gave you a fantastic compliment. What were you doing?
For example, a VP of Quality I was coaching excelled at recognizing the achievement of her people. She would write a letter every day telling someone they did a good job. She leaned into this strength and her team’s engagement showed it.
Recently a study was done, where researchers divided volunteers into two groups: one group to keep a weekly list of things they were grateful for and the other group to keep a weekly list of hassles and problems they were having. Not surprisingly, the people in the first group showed significantly higher life satisfaction than the problem focused group.
If you want to increase the likelihood that you will be happy, focus on the good things in life. If you want to sustain that level of happiness, build elements of gratitude into your annual purpose statement.
As you answer these three questions, combine the answers into one thought. It doesn’t matter if your focus for the year comes out as a single sentence: “Be present and positive when listening to other’s ideas” or even as a single word: “Present.” A purpose statement is important because it supports you doing what you love and loving what you do. It can bring you happiness as you lead others.
Having a focused and defined purpose will direct your energy, help you manage through the bumps, and enable you to fly (with or without the pixie dust!) and make it a great year ahead!
Share your purpose statement with others, plan time to support it, and have fun living it! And please share your experiences with us in creating your purpose for the year. Leave a comment below with your experience or even your own purpose statement.
To help you answer the above questions, and support you in coming up with your purpose statement, we created a worksheet for you that you can download and or print. Click here to download your FREE copy of the “Defining Your Purpose of the Year Worksheet.”
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