If you haven’t followed my blogs or social media stories, I recently took a part-time job at the Vienna State Opera as an Extra. It’s been an incredible adventure! I expected it to be fun, but the sense of belonging, purpose, achievement, and perspective changing have come as more of a surprise. This weekend I had the chance to take part in the annual “Tag der Offen Tür” (open day!) and it caused another unpredictable shift in how I feel and think about work.
The open day has been a Season-opening tradition at the State Opera forever. The public get a chance to go behind the scenes of the most famous opera stage in the world. There are workshops and sing-alongs, rehearsals and mini-performances, face painting and special effects. There is also the chance to stand on the main stage and meet the most colourful and intriguing costumed-characters from the Operas, including me dressed as a Rabbit from ‘The Magic Flute’. They loved it, and so did I!
As a Researcher and Expert in Finding Meaning at work, I KNOW that ‘making a social impact’ is not just important. It’s essential. In my Keynotes and Workshops I often cite a ton of research that shows the HUGE (up to 300%) productivity and motivation boost when we feel the impact of our work on others. But it took dressing as a Rabbit to fully understand what that FEELS like.
As an Extra, I’m quite far removed from the impact of my work. We turn up, play our role, and go home. We never get a curtain call. We never hear the applause. Seeing the smiles and joy on the faces of the hundreds of happy open-day visitors caused something inside of me change. Suddenly, I can see the impact of my work: I play a tiny role in making the audience happy and that makes me feel great! It’s hard to describe the effect this has had on me without sounding like I drank all of the Opera kool-aid and completely lost my marbles. But those glowing, appreciative faces are burned into the front of my mind and I feel a different level of motivation to give them a great performance in my next Opera.
“The great news is, this effect is pretty easy to achieve”
If you are a Leader, can you imagine how your organisation would perform if everyone felt like that? I’ve worked with dozens of purpose-led organisations, including many charities, who have spent huge amounts of time, energy, and money trying to achieve exactly that. They go to great lengths to articulate their higher-purpose and vision. And this is awesome. The world absolutely needs more Leaders, Organisations, Employees who are striving to make it a better place.
The unfortunate reality, even in purpose-led organisations, is that large parts of the workforce are totally disconnected from the impact they are making in the world. They never get a curtain call, they never hear the applause, and they never FEEL the emotional connection to the impact they are making on other humans.
The great news is, this is pretty easy to fix, and it doesn’t cost much. The even better news is that this effect lasts. Research shows that even a very short interaction with the beneficiary of our work can make a MASSIVE and lasting difference to the motivation, productivity, and esteem that we feel in our jobs. If you’re a Leader, this can be as simple as a short feedback session with your team to share how a happy customer feels or sharing the results of a customer survey. If you are an Employee, think about who you are impacting and how.
If even a bunny rabbit can make an impact, imagine what a difference you are making.