Do you Want to Make your Work more Meaningful? Aim for the S.P.I.R.E.!

SPIRE_StegerI´m a big fan of the work of Professor Michael F. Steger (Colorado State University), one of the world´s foremost scholars on the subject of meaning in life and meaning in work (see his TEDx Talk here).

In fact, he´s not only a top-notch scientist, but at the same time he´s able to turn his research (plus other people´s scholarly work) into actionable insights for business leaders. Accordingly, I was more than thrilled when Michael agreed to work with me on a paper that showcases some research on the question of how leaders can help to make the work of their subordinates more meaningful. While the original paper was written in German, there´s a neat summary of that research (CAARMA leadership) available via Positive Psychology News Daily.

Today, I´d like to introduce you to another framework that has been described by Michael, precisely via this book chapter. Where CAARMA leadership focuses on the role of the leader in creating (more) meaningful work for employees, the acronym S.P.I.R.E. points us towards all those resources and pathways to meaning that employees control unmediatedly. The building blocks of this acronym have been synthesized by Steger based on some 40 years of extant research on meaningful work.

Strengths

In Steger´s words: Know your unique strengths and talents, and use them in executing your work, even if that means going above and beyond your basic job duties.

Now obviously, in order to make this recommendation work, you´ll have to find out what your strengths are in the first place. A good place to start would be taking the VIA survey, a test that was developed based on a framework of 24 character strengths first described by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman. Or, you could create your Reflected Best Self™ portrait, a method developed at the Center for Positive Organizations (Ross School of Business). In this LinkedIn article, I explain how you can do that.

Personalization

In Steger´s words: Bring more of yourself to work, align work with your values, take responsibility and adopt an ownership mentality for your work and your organization.

A rewarding pathway to tackling the challenge of (increased) ownership could be practicing what Professor Amy Wrzesniewski (Yale) calls job crafting – which is defined as ‘‘the physical and cognitive changes individuals make in the task or relational boundaries of their work’’. Basically, via job crafting employees progressively turn the job they currently have into the one they really want to be in. Here´s a nice description of fellow Penn MAPPster Paula Davis-Laack via Psychology Today.

Integration

In Steger´s words: Integrate the motivation of and execution of your job with other elements of your life, work in ways that bring meaning to the rest of your life.

Now, that is obviously a task which cannot be executed just like 1…2…3. Finding the right balance (or rather: blend) to me seems to be an ongoing internal exploration and negotiation between the different selves that comprise the “whole person” over the span of a lifetime. Nevertheless, I recently stumbled upon this beautiful article in the Harvard Business Review crafted by Brianna Caza, Lakshmi Ramarajan, Erin Reid, and Stephanie Creary that might point you towards some meaningful pathways: How to Make Room in Your Work Life for the Rest of Your Self.

Resonance

In Steger´s words: Learn your organization’s core values and mission, find ways in which it resonates with your personal mission and meaning through everyday work.

As with the aspect of strengths, this pathway will not come to life without a fair amount of soul-searching and self-discovery. Aligning our personal mission with that of our organization requires discovering (or rather: building and exploring over time?) our life´s mission in the first place. Now personally, I´ve wrangled with the concept of a personal mission for several years, especially when being contrasted to a similar, but somewhat different matter, a personal purpose statement. Even though the following article by Disney Institute´s Bruce Warner covers this topic on the level of the organization, it helped me tremendously to clarify my mission and my purpose (at least in their current versions) – that´s why I´m recommending it to you here: The Difference Between Purpose and Mission.

Expansion

In Steger´s words: Seek ways in which your work can be grown to benefit some greater good, expand your concerns to embrace broader interests beyond your self.

I figure there are countless opportunities to achieve this goal. To start, you might find some inspiration in this New York Times article covering research by Wharton professor Adam Grant (described in his seminal book Give and Take) written by Susan Dominus.

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Following these recommendations can help you to propel your work life onto a more meaningful trajectory. Quite naturally, it´s not a good idea to tackle all of these different pathways at the same time. I´d start with those one or two drivers that resonate the most with you for the time being.

Enjoy!

Foto Credit

10 Books on Purpose and Meaning in Life and Work

Esfahani_MeaningI don´t know if it´s my age (…the 40s are clearly in sight…), or the fact that I will become a father for the second time over the upcoming weeks (Yeah…!), or if it´s just in the air anyway (I believe so…) – but my mind is preoccupied with the topic of meaning and purpose at work and in life in general most of the time.

If you also would like to dig deeper into that subject-matter: Here´s a neat book list for you. Some books are brand-new (e.g., Dan Pontefract´s) or haven’t even been published yet (as in the case of Emily Esfahani Smith´s, a fellow Penn Mappster), some have been published over the last two years (e.g., Aaron Hurst´s book), some are a bit older (e.g., Rick Warren´s bestseller), and with Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and Viktor Frankl I´ve also included some classics. Some books are based on solid science through and through (e.g., Vic Strecher), some are more self-help style (e.g. Marsha Beck), some are scholarly books (Dik et al.), most are clearly written for the layman.

Share and enjoy!

Return On Flourishing (ROFL): A Keynote given at the Fifteen Seconds Festival in Graz/Austria

For my German-speaking readers:

About two weeks ago, I gave a keynote on Positive Psychology at the Fifteen Seconds Festival in Graz/Austria. It covers a short introduction to Positive Psychology, some scientific facts on the relationship between treating your employees exceptionally well and the financial returns of a company (based among other things, on the research of Prof. Alex Edmans), and a model of exceptional leadership based on ideas of Prof. Michael F. Steger.

Share and enjoy!

Nico_Rose_Fifteen_Seconds

The 3 Layers of Meaningful Work

A while ago, I shared a summary of a fantastic article on the sources of meaning in work co-authored by Amy Wrzesniewski. This year, while trying to understand how to create infographics, I wrote an article about Michael Steger’s (University of Colorado) CARMA framework on how leaders can help their employees to perceive meaning in their work.

Today, I’d like to share more of Michael’s insightful work. With several co-workers, he created a new scale that aims at measuring how much meaning somebody perceives in his or her current working role. It’s called Work and Meaning Inventory (WAMI, here’s the original article).

Steger et al. find that it might be useful to conceptualize meaningful work as having three different layers (please also see the infographic at the bottom): The meaning of the work itself, the meaning it helps to generate in the wider context of the person’s life, and the meaning that is generated when a job helps to achieve some greater good. In their own words:

Positive meaning in work. This facet is a straightforward reflection of the idea of psychological meaningfulness that has been part of work psychology since the job characteristics model. […] Meaningful work is often a subjective experience that what one is doing has personal significance. 

Meaning making through work. Empirical research has shown that work frequently is an important source of meaning in life as a whole. There seems to be a common overlap between one’s work and one’s life work. Indeed, the idea that work could be meaningful without also leading people to build meaning in their lives as a whole makes little sense.

Greater good (GG) motivations. The desire to make a positive impact on the greater good is consistently related to the experience of meaningful work as well as the related construct of calling. […] This facet reflects commonly held ideas that work is most meaningful if it has a broader impact on others. 

As the saying goes:

All good comes in threes.

Three_Level_Meaning_Steger

How Leaders Enable Meaningful Work [Infographic]

Thanks to the stunning infographics of Anna Vital (see them here, here, and here), I’ve decided to learn how to better think and communicate in a visual way. I’m not a designer, so I don’t know how to work with Software packages like Illustrator. Therefore, for the time being I have to use what’s already out there, e.g., the Webdings that come with Microsoft’s fonts.

To start, I´ve chosen a topic that´s very close to my heart: Meaningful work. Prof. Michael F. Steger is one of the world´s foremost authorities on this topic. He created the acronym CARMA to outline a set of leadership behaviors that help employees to perceive their work as being valuable and meaningful.

What do you think?

CARMA_Work

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77 Positive Psychology People and Institutions to follow on Twitter

Positive Twitter Update 2: If you´d like to follow all of the accounts mentioned below, you can do so by following this Twitter list I´ve created this morning.

Update 1: Thanks a lot for all the positive feedback to this post. Within just 12 hours, it has become one of the most-read on Mappalicious. Via your suggestions, the list is now at 90 Twitter accounts. Therefore, I´ve decided to copy/paste this post to the (permanent) Positive Psychology Resources section. Further suggestions to the list will be added there, not here.

Over the last four years, Twitter tweets could not be found via Google. Now, both companies announced a new partnership which makes sure tweets will be part of the search results again. This means Twitter will become (even) more important in the future. So I guess that’s a good reason to see what Twitter has to offer with regard to Positive Psychology. Below, you’ll find 77 Twitter accounts of researchers, consultants, coaches, writers, bloggers, instititions, associations, news outlets, and software tools. As always, this is meant to be work in progress. So if you feel you know somebody (or an institution etc.) that belongs on this list, please leave a comment below this article. If you want to make a suggestion, please stick to people that either are in research, or otherwise display an in-depth knowledge of Positive Psychology (visible through e.g., a corresponding university degree).

Researchers/Authors

Consultants/Coaches/Speakers/Writers/Bloggers etc.

Research Groups/Institutions/Association/Movements

Apps/Tech/Media