The Flourishing Factor

blog Jul 04, 2024

By Dr. Wayne Hammond

A Gallup survey of people at work focused on employee engagement, measured by the level of involvement and enthusiasm. The study found that only 23% of employees across the globe and 32% in America are truly engaged in their work. This means the vast majority of people at work today aren’t engaged or are actively disengaged, even though their supervisors have tried to help them connect with the vision of the companies. The authors of the research explain:

“One of the most common mistakes companies make is to approach engagement as a sporadic exercise in making their employees feel happy—usually around the time when a survey is coming up. It’s true that we describe engaged employees as ‘enthusiastic.’ And surveys play a big role in measuring staff engagement. But it’s not that simple. Employees need more than a fleeting warm-fuzzy feeling and a good paycheck (even if it helps them respond positively on a survey) to invest in their work and achieve more for your company. People want purpose and meaning from their work. They want to be known for what makes them unique. This is what drives employee engagement. And they want relationships, particularly with a manager who can coach them to the next level. This is who drives employee engagement. One of Gallup’s biggest discoveries: the manager or team leader alone counts for 70% of the variance in team engagement.”1

My observations of people and their careers are consistent with Gallup’s conclusions: People need work that corresponds to their purpose and passion. Quite often, a person’s “bent” is noticeable at an early age. For instance, an unusually caring child may eventually choose a career as a veterinarian, nurse or therapist, and a child who shows an aptitude for building blocks and structures may become an architect, engineer or builder. Their inner spirit is searching for a role where it can be expressed to its fullest.

Searching. That’s a key factor for each of us as we consider where we’ll invest our time and talents. Those who take the first job offered to them often become frustrated when the responsibilities don’t challenge and inspire them beyond making a decent living.

A few years ago, I met with an executive at an oil company who told me he had been interviewing recent engineering graduates. One young man used the interview to ask some pointed questions: “I want to know more about your company. What are your values?” “How do you see your company’s impact on the environment?” “What is your role in community partnerships?”

The executive realized this candidate wanted to know if the company had a purpose beyond maximizing the share price for investors. He wanted to see if his purpose and passion aligned with the executive’s and the company’s. The executive hired the young man on the spot.

In finding the right career, the first step is to clarify our purpose and values. Instead of just absorbing the culture of a company by osmosis, it’s far healthier to spend time looking at our stories to see what has mattered to us, what has inspired us and what we’ve done well that has given us satisfaction. It’s helpful to think through this analysis when we’re young, but there’s never a bad time to identify or refine our purpose and values.

Today, I’m at the age when many people retire, but I’m not looking forward to something better. What I do every day is better! I get up every day with a sense of adventure: Will someone cross my path today who needs to be connected, inspired, built and empowered? Unless I stay in a closet all day, the answer is always, “Yes!” I like being around people, and I’m thrilled when I see lightbulbs of insight turn on. I’m amazed that God could use me to inspire people to flourish. That never gets old.

Hard work may be the cornerstone of the Puritan work ethic, but that cornerstone must be grounded in something meaningful. Hard work is worthwhile if we learn and grow from the experience, it develops our character, advances who we want to become and has a powerful and positive impact on others.

The Gallup survey identifies four levels of employee engagement:

At the most fundamental level, employees are asking, “What do I get out of working here?” The answers are generally about salary, benefits and a low amount of stress.

The second level changes the focus to, “What do I give?” This is about individual contribution, job fit, appreciation for work and personal accomplishment.

The third level is about relationships: “Do I belong?” When people feel known and heard, trust becomes the foundation of strong relationships. Together, the team accomplishes more than the sum of individual efforts.

The fourth level is about the future: “How do I grow?” In a supportive, collaborative environment employees feel inspired, not threatened, by challenges. They put themselves in a position to learn new lessons, sharpen existing skills and acquire new ones.2

It’s certainly possible that people on a team may be at different levels—some are just getting their feet wet in launching their careers, some are in the early stages of identifying what they do with excellence and others have developed stability in their relationships so they feel free to be creative.

The alignment of our purpose with the purpose of the company is important at every level of corporate life, from the custodian to the CEO. No job is just a job. The people at the lowest level of the organizational chart need a strengths-based approach to their work just as much as those in the C-suite.

Every role is crucial so teams function, people thrive and customers and clients are served with excellence. When President Kennedy toured NASA in 1962, he noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He stopped, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

The janitor didn’t miss a beat. He responded, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” This man went to work each day with the conviction that his contribution mattered. With each sweep of his broom, he was making history.

In an article in Inc., Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Apprentice, writes that “purpose-driven” companies thrive for five reasons:

Purpose inspires your team. In my experience, nothing motivates a team more than knowing they’re working toward a meaningful goal. It’s not just about clocking in and out; it’s about contributing to a larger mission. When employees believe in the purpose of their organization, they become more engaged, more productive and more likely to stay with the company.

Purpose attracts and retains customers. “Purpose differentiates you by tapping into the hearts and minds of customers who are looking for more than just products or services,” Kerpen writes. “This leads to increased loyalty and customer retention.”

Purpose differentiates you in the market. Kerpen writes, “Purpose gives you a unique identity, a compelling story to tell and a genuine connection with your audience. It’s a powerful differentiator that can absolutely give you a competitive edge.”

Purpose drives innovation. When we’re motivated by a deeper meaning and a desire to make a positive impact, we’re driven to think differently, explore new possibilities and challenge the status quo. Purpose creates a fertile ground for creativity, encouraging us to ask the right questions and seek more innovative solutions to the problems we face.

Purpose is good for the bottom line. When a company embraces a strong sense of purpose, it becomes more than just a profit-making machine. It becomes a force for positive change in the world. And guess what? Customers, employees and investors are all taking notice. They’re gravitating toward purpose-driven brands because they too want to be a part of something meaningful.

Purpose, Kerpen concludes, “is the compass that guides us, the motivation that drives us, and the essence that defines us. As we look to the future, let’s not chase money, scale or success—let’s chase purpose.”3


For me, there’s no dichotomy between my personal life and my career. I have the same purpose wherever I go. I treat my family and those I consult with and counsel in the same way—with honor, respect and admiration. My purpose and values are consistent in every conversation and every task.

But purpose and values aren’t static; they evolve as we grow in wisdom, we have more varied experiences and we receive feedback from people we trust. My purpose as an 18-year-old was much less defined than when I was 40 . . . or 50 . . . or 60. As we work in a current role, our competence increases, and we may find that we’re quite skilled at something we’ve never tried before. At the same time, we develop soft skills in interpersonal relationships, and we’re more adept at leading people, bringing out the best in them and handling conflict with a blend of truth and grace.

No job is a perfect fit. All work includes some drudgery, but it shouldn’t be all drudgery. I love my work, but some days it’s exhausting, and I want to find an escape hatch. A “good enough fit” gives us opportunities to be creative, sharpen our skills, collaborate with others and see the impact of our work on the lives of others.

We usually find ourselves in a job that has many qualities that align with our purpose but some that don’t. The question is always: How close is good enough? If we enjoy working with the people around us and we have a genuine sense of accomplishment, we can put up with some rough edges. If, however, the negatives are too significant, and our attempts to resolve them have proven unproductive (or counterproductive), it may be time to look for a better fit.

A young woman proved to be an excellent, rising leader in a marketing firm, and she received an offer to become a partner in a larger company. The salary increase was nice, but she was especially interested in two things: the quality of the team she would lead and the scope of opportunities to have an impact.

For the first six months at her new job, she excelled. She felt fulfilled and validated and she loved working with her team. But something in the CEO flipped at about that time. In a matter of weeks, she became the object of his ridicule. She tried to talk to him to determine the cause of his sudden disapproval, but he brushed her off and claimed, “Oh, it’s nothing. I was just having a bad day. Forget it.”

But it wasn’t just a bad day. It was a bad week, a bad month and soon a bad quarter. She wondered how she’d missed any signs that the CEO was mercurial, but a trusted friend in the company explained, “I think he feels threatened by your skills and confidence.” That insight was only marginally helpful. She still had to find ways to cope with his disapproval, which not only became a dark cloud over her but over her team because they were guilty by association.

She found a professional coach to help her wade through the confusion and chart a path forward. For months, she tried to address the issue, but there was no progress. Finally, she left the company and started her own firm. She recalls:

It was, as Dickens said, “the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I loved the people I worked with, and the job perfectly fit my talents. I stayed as long as I could, but it was killing me—I wasn’t sleeping, I lost weight, I was grouchy at home. Many of the people at the company are still good friends. They weren’t the brunt of the attacks, so they felt okay about staying, but it was time for me to go. I learned a lot from the experience. By enduring as long as I did, I gained confidence in my insights, my ability to lead and my dedication to create a supportive culture. I wouldn’t go back there, but I took a lot from the experience.

Did you notice the elements of a flourishing life in her story? She connected strongly with the people on her team, and in the midst of personal attacks, they supported each other. Her coach inspired her to trust her perceptions instead of absorbing unwarranted blame, and with renewed confidence she inspired the people on her team.

Together, they built their skills, refined their approach to clients and created an effective structure to serve people inside and outside the company. When she felt confused and powerless, her coach infused her with a renewed vision that she could make good decisions and relate to her CEO without reacting. She felt empowered to start her marketing firm, and today she’s thriving.


If you’re one of those people who is actively engaged and fulfilled in your career, take some time to answer these questions, and use these questions as you coach those you lead:

As you look back at your childhood and when you were a young adult, what were the signs that this might be a good career fit for you?

What about your current job fits really well? . . . fairly well? . . . not so well?

In what ways are your purposes at home and at work consistent?

How are you actively and purposefully helping others flourish? How well are you connecting, inspiring, building and empowering?

If you’re passively disengaged—your body is at work, but your mind and heart are often somewhere else—answer these questions:

When you were young, what activities did you enjoy? What did adults affirm that you did well?

Has there been a time when you had a clear sense of purpose? If so, describe that season of your life.

Specifically, what about your current role is less than inspiring?

If you had a powerful purpose, would you stay at that job and make it work well for you, or would you look for a better fit?

If you’re actively disengaged—that is, resistant to your supervisor and a pain to the people who are trying to do a good job—answer these questions:

Look back at the time when you were a child through when you were a young adult. What activities did you enjoy? What did adults affirm that you did well?

Defiance is a way to make sense of the past. It says, “I’m not going to take it anymore!” Does that statement hit home for you? Why or why not?

What would it look like for you to enter the process of connecting with a wise, supportive person, letting your heart be inspired to something far better than today, building your skills and insights and being empowered to be your best?

Are you willing to do what it takes to flourish?

Take your time answering these questions. There are no bonus points for speed! It’s often helpful to discuss your answers with someone you trust, someone who can challenge your negative assumptions and encourage you to reach higher. Don’t settle for being passively engaged or actively disengaged in your work. Do something about it!




  1. “What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It?” Gallup,
  2. “What Is Employee Engagement?”, Gallup.
  3. Dave Kerpen, “5 Reasons to Embrace a Purpose-Driven Approach in Business,” Inc.,

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