You know the feeling. You’re on fire at work – moving from one priority to the next, and so in the groove that it doesn’t even feel taxing. You are in that mental state that is both energized and focused and your productivity is at its max.

Susie Cranston and Scott Keller published an article at mckinseyquarterly.com about what brings about peak performance or what has been called “flow.”They found that three capabilities will produce flow:

IQ or the intellectual aspects: “Role clarity, a clear understanding of objectives, and access to the knowledge and resources needed to get the job done.”

EQ or the emotional environment: Quality of interactions, trust, respect, collaboration and a feeling of being “all in this together.”

MQ or the meaning quotient: The idea that what you are doing is important, has not been done before and will truly make a difference.

Cranston and Keller acknowledge that IQ and EQ are critical, but not sufficient to produce peak performance. People need to connect their work to something bigger than “this year’s goal.” A powerful IQ/EQ/MQ environment can create performance up to five times that of average, according to the executives interviewed.

How do you boost MQ?

Tell five stories at once. Make sure your inspirational stories focus on company benefits, as well as on how the employee’s work benefits society, customers, their teams and themselves.

Let employees articulate the meaning themselves. Don’t just script the meaning story and send out the dog and pony show to win over employees. Your people will be far more committed to the outcome if they can write part of it themselves. Ask, “What difference are you making?” or “What improvement are you working on?”  to help people see the meaning in their work.

Use small, unexpected rewards. Don’t link salary to making a difference. “When business objectives are linked to compensation, the motivation to drive for results is rarely enhanced meaningfully.” Instead, small gestures of appreciation (a handwritten card or token gift) can boost a person’s connection to the leader and company for months or even years.

You may not be able to help people realize maximum productivity every moment of the day, but boosting the Meaning Quotient will keep folks engaged and happy about coming to work. You’ll all have more fun realizing your dreams and making a real difference.


Need help articulating the meaning behind your work? Contact Humanergy.

Photo from iStockphoto.