3rd May 2018


I was playing a very old, badly reproduced, video on Core Values to some clients last week. Steve Jobs was talking about Apple. He said ‘what we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done. Although we do that very well. Apple at its core, its core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better’ he went on to say that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that actually do.

One of the clients was complaining how he was finding it difficult to recruit the right staff and in the discussion he was telling me about the product they made. Someone who knew his business better than me later explained that as a high end precision engineering company they made, among other things, biomedical joints to an exceptionally high standard. Think hip joint replacements and you will get the idea.

Now if you were a computer engineer in the late 90’s and early noughties I imagine you would have been falling over yourself to get a job at Apple. It had vision, it had passion. It wanted to change the world. You could probably buy into the vision and would feel part of a movement of like minded people who were working together to try to change the world, and Apple, I would argue have certainly changed the world. OK, hindsight may romanticize the story somewhat but I imagine lots of Apple employees felt that they were on a mission to ‘put a dent in the universe’. They were doing something with a purpose and that gave them meaning and significance. It is amazing incidentally how effective a compelling vision is in attracting visionary and inspirational characters.

Now I wonder if our precision engineers frame what they do to current and prospective employees in a similar way; and if not why not? If you were an engineer, would you rather deploy your skills making track rod ends for tractors or helping people walk pain free? Part of leadership, a big part of leadership, is about helping the team to understand why the work that they do matters. Why it has significance. Why it makes the world a better place. Everyone needs to feel that what they do and who they are matters. You can see how that would apply to Apple employees. You can probably imagine how you might approach the topics of meaning and significance if you made exquisitely engineered hip joints. I wonder whether that particular company leverage that particular asset? But what about you? What about the product or service that you are really involved with? How much do you go out of your way to help your team feel that the work they do matters? If they don’t believe that what they do matters, why would they be concerned about how well they do it, or whether they do it at all?

Last week I wrote about pride as a motivational force. The role of the manager/ leader is to motivate, to inspire, the team to perform at a high level. How much time and effort do you spend in reinforcing how important the job your team does is to the world?