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Does Your Leadership Matter?

Introduce the concept of Mattering—and why it matters in creating teams that value their work—and each other.

Nora felt indifferent to her job. It wasn’t because she wasn’t good at it. It was because she thought that her efforts went unnoticed no matter how hard she worked. Her ideas were often steamrolled in meetings by someone running with the thought and making it their own, the conversation typically turning to the loudest voice in the room. On Slack, her comments and conversations were often ignored. Her work ethic and output were expected but rarely praised or appreciated. 

Like a flower without water, her enthusiasm began to wilt, and her self-confidence plummeted. Without consistent validation, Nora began to doubt her capabilities and resent those who always seemed to receive recognition even if the quality of their work wasn’t particularly better or, even worse, was a poor reflection of her contributions.

Unfortunately, Nora’s story is not isolated or unique. It’s no wonder why a recent study sponsored by Blueboard revealed that “two in three (67%) employed Americans say they don't always feel appreciated for their contributions at work.”  

And yet, the positive impact of appreciation at work is well-documented. When surveyed,  77.9% of employees said they would be more productive if they were recognized more frequently. 

How difficult must it be to show up day after day feeling unfulfilled and needing a sense of purpose? To help the Noras in business, it is crucial to create a culture where teams value their work and each other. In short, “mattering” matters.

The difference between Belonging and Mattering

According to Isaac Prilleltensky, a professor at the University of Miami, mattering is defined in two parts: “feeling valued and adding value.”

Both are important, but mattering gets to the heart of belonging, and both are essential in recruiting and retaining employees. 

Is Mattering the Cure for Burnout?

It’s hard to burn out doing work that lights you up. Finding projects that take advantage of an employee’s skill set is key. When the contributions of each team member are maximized and appreciated, everyone wins. According to the World Economic Forum, “Employees with the best well-being had 56% fewer missed days, were five times more likely to be rated a top performer, and had 25% higher productivity and 34% higher engagement.”

Managers can work to empower their employees by talking with them on a regular and ongoing basis to make sure they understand the greater goal, feel connected to their peers, and, most importantly, feel supported and seen.

3 Tips To Creating a Culture of Mattering

Every employee wants to know how their contributions make a difference; showing someone the value they bring to their work doesn't take much.  

  1. Create awareness and alignment. In order to recognize valuable contributions, it is important to outline the big picture of an assignment and how each individual’s role drives the business's success. Think: “I know my work matters because…”

  2. Acknowledge and celebrate. Employees can understand their valuable benefit when projects have definitive start and end dates, and time to review what went well and what can be improved is baked into the timeline. Think: “I meaningfully gain and grow when…”

  3. Rinse and repeat. Creating a culture of mattering (and belonging) isn’t a one-time deal—getting recognition at an annual performance review won’t cut it. To make sure your team feels supported all year long, be sure to carve out time to give kudos when they are due at any point throughout a project. A little recognition can go a long way to maintaining motivation.

Mattering can be used as a preventative measure to many workplace woes, such as burnout, stress, being overwhelmed, etc., but ultimately, the goal is to create a sense of pride and well-being that extends far beyond the office walls.

My challenge to you: Pay close attention to your team members' enthusiasm for their work and check in with them to see how they are feeling overall. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they understand how much their work is valued in the organization and let the feeling of mattering take over from there.

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