Six ways to ignite purpose at work, starting with the job interview

Six ways to ignite purpose at work, starting with the job interview

In October 2017, the Boston Red Sox offered Alex Cora the team manager position, a promotion from the second-in-command role he had with the Houston Astros. Cora wanted the job but had one condition.

The job candidate asked his prospective employer to provide a plane full of supplies to help Puerto Ricans struggling to rebuild their lives amidst the ruins of Hurricane Maria.

Most people wouldn’t dream of allowing their Inner Giver — that part of us that is squishy, empathic and yearns to help — anywhere near a job negotiation. It’s unprofessional.

If that’s the case, we should all aspire to unprofessionalism. Our Inner Givers belong in job negotiations — and in meetings, performance reviews, recognition efforts, procurement plans, manual labor and whatever else we do for work. Why? Because there’s ample evidence that if we bend work towards contributing to others or to a cause, a practice known as job purposing, we are happier at work and in life. Of course, we also make the world more just and more kind.

Cora job purposed the hiring process, but how might we job purpose other job functions? Following are five more examples.

  • Meetings: The organizer of a meeting I attended in Toronto honored the Native American tribes that had preceded us in that location with a few words and shared how we could help maintain native cultures. How might you raise awareness for a cause at your next meeting?
  • Performance reviews: Ask your supervisor if you can develop that skill you need for your next promotion through volunteering. Toyota, for example, has incorporated skill-building charitable acts in its development plan policies.
  • Recognition: Reward your team members for excellent performance by giving them a charitable gift card that allows them to direct $25 to the charity of their choice. To build a truly positive culture, consider inviting winners to share to what charity they donated and why, as Antis Roofing does.
  • Procurement: Can you purchase supplies from businesses owned by women or minorities? Or from B Corporations, which are companies certified as being highly socially responsible? Can you purchase environmentally sustainable products?
  • Driving: If you’re a long-haul driver, might you become trained in spotting sex trafficking and how to report it? UPS drivers have purposed their jobs in this manner.

You get the idea. Holly Branson, Chair of Virgin Unite at Virgin Group, expressed it this way: “Whatever role you have in the business, you make decisions every day and you, as an individual, have the power to use purpose to drive those decisions.” She would know. Every corner of the Virgin enterprise seems to positively impact the world every day. Virgin Trains’ POP-UP program invites small and medium businesses to set up inside their local station and receive exposure they could never afford. Virgin atlantic is figuring out how to run jet engines using recycled fuel that reduces the carbon footprint by 70%. And HR gives employees the day off for their birthday.

As it turned out, the Red Sox wisely agreed to Cora’s condition. In January 2018, the new team manager and a dozen Red Sox players and officials distributed medical supplies, water filtration systems, flashlights, diapers, food and other items to 300 families in Cora’s hometown of Caguas.

That’s great, but won’t job purposing distract us from work and dampen performance? In the same year as the relief trip, and his rookie year managing, Cora led the Red Sox through their most successful season ever and to a world series title. This is actually not surprising. Academic research overwhelmingly finds that job purposing makes us more productive and successful. A better question is: Would the Red Sox be world champions had Cora routinely squelched his Inner Giver and been strictly “professional” at work? It’s impossible to know, but evidence suggests it’s less likely. The question for you, then, is: Are you undermining your work success by not job purposing?


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13 Responses

  1. What a story! We all have an inner Cora. Go
    Sox and job purposing to become champions at work!

    1. Domingo, you coined a brilliant term! “Inner Cora” says it all. At least for Red Sox fans. : )

  2. Great article. It shows us to be bold and include our heart in all decisions, even the “corporate ones!

  3. What a great story…love it!
    You keep us all thinking about the possibilities for good, Bea, thank you for that.

  4. Great story, as always, Bea! Besides his giving heart, Cora is obviously a great leader, too!

    1. You are so right, Lynn. Caring and leading seem to support each other.

  5. I am a driver Bea. My routes takes me through Native American lands. Recently I listened with shock on NPR how victimized these people are by sex trafficking, rape, disappearance.
    The tribes are not included in amber alert networks. It never occurred to me that I might gain the knowledge to help spot trafficking. My children are quite young. Iginia has met them.
    A terrifying prospect to have any human victimized. I always give to different organizations. I will educate myself further to recognize these atrocities. Thank you.

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