As written by Adam Lloyd via LinkedIn

When’s the last time you asked yourself what you want? Essentially, what will fulfill you. Or, when’s the last time you even gave this concept serious consideration? Fulfillment and purpose seem like simple goals, but in life, they’re often overlooked. Just look around, many people, successful on paper and hitting their stride, are not happy. Reason being, the social definition of success often comes with over-extension and detachment from one’s core values and inner peace.

It’s unfortunate for most of us how long it actually takes to ask ourselves this question, even more so, when we realize just how powerful and simple the inquiry actually is. Asking the question is easy. It’s straightforward. It’s four words. However, the progression of events that follow from this simple act, become more complex as you continue through the “why process”, and start uncovering what you’re really after.


Get to the root of what matters most

Organizations often put tremendous resources into creating processes and cultures that standardize, streamline, and form best practices; for the sake of a few buzzwords. While consistency allows companies to execute processes, creating baselines for data gathering, and making employee mobility experiences smoother, it comes with a cost. Payment in the form of personalization.

This depersonalization brings about unengaged employees, a workforce of passive job seekers, and essentially a critical ingredient of the “war for talent. “ In fact, approximately 75% of the workforce isn’t engaged in their work. Scary statistic when you actually stop to think about it.

What happens when you forgo personalization to create procedures and values that appeal to the masses? Well, you get things like ping-pong rooms (Webber Kerr admits to having a ping-pong room), attractive bonuses, on-site chefs, basically a set of really nice commodities. All nice things. They keep employees around until compensation’s higher and there are more gimmicks to be had at a competitor. 

So, how do you attract and retain your talent? Start with a more meaningful approach and dive right into their value system. This is how some executives have created a loyal following and others that lack it, battle turnover. For the CEO’s and senior leaders that have admirers, there’s a single question that has helped them connect the dots…


What do you want?

There’s a CEO that asks her employees this question. She believes in this as much as, if not more, than formal reviews. In almost every case the answers start with very politically correct responses, what they think they should say, but then the progression happens. Below is an example she shared.

CEO: What do you want?

Employee: “I really want this project to come together successfully by our deadline.”

CEO: Why?

Employee: “It will be a big win for us and will allow me to take on new projects.”

CEO: Well, why are you interested in taking on larger projects and challenges?

Employee: “I will gain exposure and continue to learn and grow within the company.”

CEO: Tell me how you see increased knowledge and visibility helping you?

Employee: “If I can continue to prove myself, I believe I will gain more credibility over time, leading to control and flexibility.”

CEO: Do you currently need more flexibility to make your job easier?

Employee: “If I shift my team meetings to two days per week from four, and work longer hours on certain days than others, I could take my son to his baseball games on Thursdays and recoup the cost of a babysitter.”

Through this one direct conversation, the CEO came to realize, not only what this employee wanted, but what he needed to be fulfilled, more focused, and less distracted with his work. He valued his son. The mental strain, guilt and distraction must have been impacting his work and also his life. They made an adjustment and were sure to check-in regarding this employee’s son’s activity and time needed to be an involved father. Needless to say, the implementation of this type of conversation on a routine basis improves retention and increases overall employee morale and productivity.


The actions to develop mindsets of success

After asking the initial [what do you want] question and continuing through the why process series, we see to no surprise, that individuals have different motivators. Yes, we could say that on a basic level people want purpose and connection to others, but it’s how each individual defines and creates their own framework to achieve the state that really matters.

Openness is the first action leaders must enact to truly engage with employees. If you’re not open to different values, you’re better off hoping the ping-pong table will retain your best talent. Ask the questions, but be open to the motivators and values of different employees.

Inclusiveness in creating the employee’s solution is the key to making impactful change and lasting contentment. If you just get to the root of the problem and inform of a solution, it’s a half-baked plan. The CEO above sat down with their employee and they compared the employee’s at-home schedule to the project schedule. In doing so, they crafted a solution together that worked. They were both bought in. Creating a plan or outcome that will work for everyone doesn’t mean caving and granting unrealistic expectations, but rather working together with personal, team and business goals in mind.

Collaboration amongst individuals will provide temperature checks to gauge how they’re feeling about the changes made. Leaders that stay connected and ahead of roadblocks, ultimately increase employee sentiment. In this CEO’s example above, if the employee’s son ended baseball and was casted in the school play, she wouldn’t know to sit down again and craft a new work schedule if she wasn’t staying connected, keeping continuous lines of communication open.

Identification of activities that duplicate success, in work and extra-curricular interests, is how great leaders transform from high-potential to high-production. They know how to encourage fulfillment in and out of the workplace. Going back to asking yourself what you want, you may conclude that you’re more one-dimensional than you like and not providing yourself the time to enjoy fulfillment in other areas of life. When we make the shift to allow ourselves to experience success in hobbies, friendships, parenthood, and other areas; we are programming ourselves to be successful. Great leaders understand this and work to promote well-rounded individuals. They ask simple questions that lead them to learning where employees can find success outside of work, knowing the mindset will carry-over to the workplace. 

A simple question of “what do you want?” can lead to some pretty valuable insight. And who knows, it may just save you some money on ping-pong balls in the process.