What Exactly IS A Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement? – Ep #61


One of the distinct things about the way we here at Contracted Leadership approach leadership and leadership development is the concept of “mutually meaningful work engagements.” It’s a hallmark of what we do because it is many times THE difference between average organizations and stellar ones, as well as the primary means by which individuals in the organization attain fulfillment and satisfaction in their work.

This episode briefly defines the mutually meaningful work engagement from both the organizational perspective and the perspective of the individual employed by the organization. When you get what this concept is and understand how to implement it, you’ll lead your organization to a higher level of performance and significance.

Work engagements can and should be meaningful in both directions

A stereotypical view of employment is that of the grind — the resistant or even resentful daily trudge into the office, the mundane and monotonous execution of pre-defined and many times meaningless tasks, and the impatient watching of the clock until it’s time to return home. This perception implies that the organization is attaining its goals (meaning) but that the individual is not finding meaning. They are only a cog in the wheel that makes the goals of the organization possible. That’s a pessimistic viewpoint to have, but it is tragic if it represents reality. 

We at Contracted Leadership believe that’s not only an archaic perception, but also one that should never be a reality. One of our primary goals is to help organizations and individuals find true meaning, and we do believe that it goes both ways. Yes, the organization should fulfill its end goals through the work and participation of the individual, but the individual should also find meaning in their work. We not only believe it should be this way, we believe that it can be this way.

How are work engagements meaningful for organizations?

When it comes to what makes for a meaningful work engagement for an organization, the answer depends on the type of organization. For-profit organizations clearly assess “meaning” in terms of profitability. Every one of these organizations is in the business of making money, making more money, and continuing to make more money. But they may also be aiming to innovate in ways that improve people’s lives, provide services that better human experiences, and significantly contribute to the lives of those they employ.

Non-profit organizations are pursuing a cause or purpose that governs their sense of meaning. Though income is a consideration, it’s not the primary goal. The “why” behind the need for income is what fuels the non-profit organization. 

Can individuals truly find meaning in work engagements?

Many people only dream about the things they could do for a living that might bring purpose and meaning to their existence. Some go so far as to pursue those dreams through entrepreneurial or non-profit activities of their own choosing. But the vast majority of people lack the drive and vision for such endeavors. Does that mean they will forever miss out on meaning when it comes to the work they do week to week?

We don’t believe so. Individuals can receive a great deal of meaning and satisfaction from even the most mundane or repetitive activities if they are led into it by those they work for and with. While work engagements only become mutually meaningful if both the individual and the organization are working toward that end, organizational leaders bear a particular responsibility for it becoming a reality. Average success can be turned into stellar success on both organizational and individual levels when leaders assume a facilitator role, serving as the connective tissue between the work being done and the purpose and meaning behind it.

Are mutually meaningful work engagements possible?

Many believe it’s not possible for work engagements to truly be mutually meaningful. The contention is that one side of the equation or the other will receive meaning but that both will not. We at Contracted Leadership vehemently disagree. This approach of pursuing mutually meaningful work engagements works. We have seen organizations grow considerably, develop cultures that team members love to be a part of, and accomplish both short and long term objectives.

We’ve also seen individuals grow personally and professionally, many times receiving promotions or additional responsibility more quickly. As well, because of the personal and professional development that’s happening in the mutually meaningful work engagement process, new positions and opportunities often open up for these individuals, and careers take on greater momentum.

Listen to hear more about the mutually meaningful work engagement and to understand how you can begin making your work engagements more fulfilling for your organization and the individuals within it.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:55] What exactly IS a mutually meaningful work engagement?
  • [2:01] What makes engagements meaningful for organizations?
  • [3:28] Appropriate ways that leaders can to lean into the lives of their team members
  • [5:33] The facilitator must be the leader. Here’s why
  • [7:03] Outcomes of this approach that demonstrate its effectiveness

Connect With Bruce

Subscribe to The Development Exponent

Audio Production and Show notes by


Developing Future Leaders of Family-Owned Businesses, with Jim Hartlieb, Ep #60
Healthy Team Culture Begins With Caring Leadership, with Jason Adamany, Ep #62