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The Why of Work

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The Why of Work

How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Win


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

An expansive, inspiring guidebook for meaning-making leaders, the employees they guide and the companies they serve.

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Editorial Rating



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Dave and Wendy Ulrich’s book about abundance is itself an example of abundance. Dave, a business writer, and Wendy, a psychologist, sweep you up in a tide of leadership ideas, processes, quotations and stories that hammer home a thesis so right and true you might mistake it for common sense: Workers who care about their jobs and understand why they work will exceed your expectations and break the boundaries of their job descriptions. They will better serve customers who, in turn, will bind themselves to the thoughtful firm that produced such an enlightened staff. If this sounds like the yellow brick road, the authors cobble together ample gold paving stones to build a solid path toward fulfilling your firm’s potential. They explain how every person and organization can change for the good, while earning a profit. Along with positive psychology and happiness research, you will find useful grids, summaries and assessment tools to help you shift staid cultures and motivate stale staffers. Some of the advice is soft and general; the authors acknowledge that they skim the surface of various disciplines. Yet when the Ulrichs become specific about how to build relationships or cultivate creativity, they show you concretely how to nurture a firm where business results and human development work together. getAbstract recommends this book to executives, managers and human resources personnel who hope to serve their customers and the world through deeper service to their employees.


The Meaning of Work

Work is a way people earn money, but it’s also a potential launch pad for human development and the exploration of real meaning in life. Work takes up a good chunk of most people’s waking hours. It often defines them. This quest for definition gives leaders the opportunity to connect with their staffers and shape the underlying meaning of their jobs, so they can contribute more of who they are or want to be. However, finding meaning is also another way of finding profit. Meaningful work is inherently good for the people in your firm and it’s good for business.

In the workplace, meaning wrestles with tedium, and the outcome matters, particularly for the workers whose quality of life is at stake. Amid the mind-boggling complexity of the modern world, more people are struggling with personal and professional issues, ranging from depression to a lack of connection to their jobs to an off-putting, “me-first mindset.” As a result, “deficit thinking” – a negative sense of pervasive mistrust and self-protection – quickly and easily becomes the workplace’s prevalent mode. Staffers driven by such thinking give less effort on the job because they are filled...

About the Authors

Dave Ulrich, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and a partner at the RBL Group, has written 23 books. Psychologist Wendy Ulrich founded the Sixteen Stones Center for Growth.

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    C. K. 1 decade ago
    Competencies, skills and abilities need to be clearly understood, i.e. the why of work.
    The ability to define the why of work is crucial to detrmine the skills (short-time), competence (can be adapted) and ability (the competence that grow aith experience).
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      1 decade ago
      Hi Chan, great points! Here we learn the importance of leaders within an organization understanding the "why of work" for their employees. But we must wonder, to what extent are the employees responsible for also building abundant organizations. Does it narrow down to the quality of who you are hiring?