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Dr. Carr's Corner

Purpose at work: How high-performing teams and organizations are built

As the pandemic continues to disrupt and transform society, people are taking time to assess what matters most to them. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they spend their time, and whether they are valued. It’s leading to a dramatic increase in transitions and turnover in the workplace. Workers are quitting their jobs at the highest rates seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started collecting this data in 2000 — nearly 11 million have left their jobs from April to June 2021, and the trend doesn’t seem to be changing.

Why now?

The pandemic has given people time and space to change their trajectory. Some people are leaving for better pay, while others may have worked in jobs that weren’t a good fit but were waiting out the pandemic. The great migration to remote and hybrid work in the pandemic has impacted how people think about when and where they want to work. The pandemic has also provided time to think about our “Why” or our “Purpose” — the powerful force behind a life well lived. 

It is the “why” that gives sense to the “what” we do. Research shows that we need a sense of meaning and purpose in what we do and what we spend time on to be truly resilient. We all want our lives to have meaning, count for something, and feel like we’re doing what we’re passionate about and achieving a purpose. 

Our resilience has been put to the test during the pandemic. And now, many people are planning to bounce forward into new opportunities after reassessing their lives, careers and adapting to circumstances as they change.

Why Is Purpose Important to your role and career?

Purpose is a career catalyst — once understood, it can be a powerful force around which all our behaviors and actions align. When your work is closely aligned with your purpose, it’s amazing how much more alive you feel, how much it energizes you, and how much more of a difference you can make in other parts of your life. Your work can be at the center of your purpose and happiness, a source of empowerment, not just employment.

It’s not only about doing meaningful work, but about how we do it. We can be more intentional and craft our role to best align with our authentic self and purpose.

Meaning in life and purpose are driven by the choices we make — purposeful and intentional actions. People who live their purpose assume responsibility for their journey. The questions we ask ourselves throughout our lives help shape our career and, most importantly, our life trajectory.

How can we use this moment to help ourselves and others better navigate these transitions with more intention?

No matter what you do, your job exists for a reason. Our research shows that on an individual level, people who understand their job’s broader purpose are happier, more engaged, and more creative. For many, a key motivator at work is the mission of the company and the impact your efforts have on others. From an organizational perspective, when employees see how their roles fit with the company’s goals, staff turnover goes down, and productivity rises. People realize their efforts serve their team’s mission and organization and help them achieve their personal purpose.

Personally, I was drawn to join Kumanu because of its mission — to create bigger lives, stronger organizations, and healthier communities by helping people find and live their purpose each day — it’s definitively the wind behind my sail and becomes the rudder in rough waters.

So how can we craft a role and a career that is more closely aligned with our purpose?

Some tips:


Create a Team Shared Purpose

  1. Use a series of questions to uncover your team’s deeper purpose (e.g.)
    • “Why does this team exist?”;
    • “How does it impact others? ;
    • “What are our strengths — our values —our uniqueness?”
    • “What are we most proud of?”
  2. Discuss how best to bring to life the organization’s purpose in your team?
  3. Consider a “Purpose to Impact” framework


Link the Team’s shared purpose to each member’s personal purpose

  1. Use the Team’s shared purpose as a catalyst for reflection on how work supports each person’s individual purpose. Create opportunities to connect what drives them personally to the team’s goals and mission. Use 1 on 1’s to facilitate reflection.
  2. Building resilience is related to working toward goals that one values. Communicate how your workgroup’s shared goals and visions relate to those of the organization and to their personal values and purpose.


Allow for Job Crafting

Job crafting can influence individual and organizational performance positively, and it does this through building trust, meaning, and engagement in the work itself. 

  1. It starts with conversations on how to tailor a role to better fit one’s purpose, strengths, and passions while at the same time meeting business imperatives.
  2. Crafting also means recognizing people for the results they deliver in their authentic style, acknowledging contributions at all levels to achieve the team’s goals and the organization’s success.
  3. There are many factors employees value that give meaning to their work. Flexibility, work-life balance, the opportunity to learn and grow, mastery, and a measure of autonomy are all important, in different degrees for different individuals.
  4. A great PurposeCast to stimulate ideas: “Why Your Values at Work Makes You Happier and Healthier” with Bea Boccalandro & Kumanu CEO, Vic Strecher.


Purposeful Development and Career Crafting

  1. Knowing your purpose and sharing it succinctly with others makes it easier for you to connect with the right people at the right time — the right ‘network’ of people and places. Also, when we’re fulfilled in our purpose and know what we do best, we’re happier. People are drawn to others who are inspired and happy — and that connects us to opportunities.
  2. If we know our purpose, we can define the kind of work that is most fulfilling. Knowing and sharing your purpose with others helps identify new challenges and learning opportunities in a current role and create the filters and areas of interest for what’s next!
  3. We all have had profound moments in our lives and careers, which are clues to defining our purpose. If we can, in some way, create more insight around these, we can begin to understand what brings us the most happiness and joy.

Purpose is one key to exceptional leadership and a pathway to greater well-being. Developing a stronger sense of purpose can unleash new aspirations and help catalyze meaningful professional and personal goals. Most people want to know that their work has meaning – that it makes an impact, helps someone else, or makes the world a better place. When people understand the deeper purpose behind their work, they are likely to be more engaged, healthy, and satisfied.

About the Author

Bob Carr Leadership Photo

Robert Carr, MD, MPH, FACPM

Chief Medical Officer, Kumanu

Robert Carr was most recently Senior Vice President & Corporate Medical Director at GlaxoSmithKline and on the faculty at Georgetown University. He received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Miami School of Medicine and his Masters of Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Hygiene and Public Health. Bob also served as the President of the American College of Preventive Medicine

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