Behavior Care Leadership Performance Purpose

Making Meaning & Making Money

Your people didn’t want more money, a better office, a bigger car, a newer phone or laptop. That’s not what they needed. You were pretty generous that way…


You’re having a dream 😴. You’re sitting in a prison cell. 

It’s a dream, so it will end well. No worries.

It’s not a bad cell. It looks more like a modern corporate office, but this time, there’s a bed and a place to shower and use the bathroom. A TV, a computer, books, and a multifunctional gym machine are also present. The only feature that makes it different is that you can’t leave this cell. 

You must wait until the judge comes and decides whether you can leave your cell. The judge will have some questions for you. Questions only you can answer. No lawyer will be able to help you with these.

The most poignant question you may have first:

How did you end up in a prison cell?

You’re in a prison cell because the human leadership police has doubts about your intentions and capabilities to lead your team properly.

The police told you that when they arrested you. People within your team showed courage, and after several attempts to talk to you about their needs, they finally had enough, and you were reported. 

Your people didn’t want more money, a better office, a bigger car, a newer phone or laptop. No, that’s not what they needed. You were pretty generous that way. 

They wanted you to show your famous determination to let the business perform AND invest time in getting to know your people and their needs better. They wanted you to understand what makes them tick and what drives them to create meaningful lives for themselves.

That’s all. Nothing else.

But you never invested any time in this.

“We’re running a business here. That’s our first and only priority. That’s what our customers expect. That’s why you can pay your bills and go on vacation.” 

Just another leader focused on making money.
You are in a leadership cell because you did not make the time to understand your people’s needs. 

Here are those six needs people consistently demonstrate. They’re based on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and modified for modern business by Tony Robbins.

The Six (modern) Human Needs are:
  1. Certainty: The need for safety, stability, and predictability in life.
  2. Variety: The need for change, novelty, and stimulation in life.
  3. Significance: The need to feel important, unique, and valued.
  4. Connection: The need for love, belonging, and intimacy.
  5. Growth: The need for personal development, learning, and progress.
  6. Contribution: The need to give back, contribute to others, and make a difference in the world.

Of course. You learned about Maslow at your prestigious university. But that was an elective you didn’t really care about. Finance was significantly more attractive.

To educate you, you received a paper describing these six needs in your prison admission conversation. The explanation for each need stated that human beings need all six, but their experience and behavior often demonstrate that some needs are preferred more than others. 

Two cases as examples:
  • Joe has been a bookkeeper for most of his life. He’s happy with his job and does not need to lead any people. He likes to go home on time and spend time with his family. On the weekend, Joe is fly fishing most of the time. Joe and his family go to the same vacation spot every year. They know almost everyone there.
  • Sally is a corporate sustainability officer who wants to make a difference in the world. She wants to grow within the company to extend her capabilities and network and impact more people with her sustainability strategy. Sally is single, lives in a modern apartment, and spends the weekend giving back to charities. Her vacations are spent close to home because she refuses to fly and pollute the environment.

It’s clear Joe and Sally are different people with different interests.

But do you really know them now? 

Let’s verify with these questions:
  • Who dreams of building a house at the seaside one day?
  • Who needs to be closely connected to people at work?
  • Who will provide you with feedback, and who won’t?
  • Who has dealt with adversity in life, which is now an essential driver of decision-making?
  • Who is more interested in money?
  • Whose purpose is to help people grow?

From the description, you will never know. There’s only one way to find out…

Suddenly, there’s a knock on the corporate office prison door cell. A distinguished-looking man with grey hair and a pleasant smile enters your cell.

“Hello, how do you like it here? Are we taking good care of you?”

You reply that you’re fine but would not like to overextend your stay. The gentleman introduces himself as a judge who can decide whether to let you go home or extend your stay in the cell.

You ask what you need to do to be released.

The judge answers that there are three requirements to be released.

One promise, one question, one piece of wisdom.
  • You need to promise to have a conversation with the people on your team and discuss their needs, hopes, dreams, and purpose in life. This should be followed by a conversation about how you can serve them better as a leader and help them fulfill their needs, etc.
  • You need to answer how you would sort the six needs from most important to least important. Once again, you will need all six. But some are more important than others. How would you sort them for yourself?
  • You need to stop paying lip service to fulfill human needs. Business is as much about creating meaning as it is about creating money. Or perhaps better said… When companies invest in creating meaning, they increase their chances of making money. Meaning and money work well together. You just need the mindset to realize this, and you will need to take that piece of wisdom with you.

You show a sigh of relief, which the judge notices. He asks what the sigh is about.

You tell the judge you expected something much harder than he requested. You say to him that what he’s asking is easy to do.

The judge then replies slightly annoyed:

If it was so easy, why did you not do it before?

Followed by the order to stay in your cell for another week to think this question of his over.

Then, you wake up to the sound of your alarm.

Your turn: how to sort these six from most to least important?

1. Certainty.
2. Variety
3. Significance
4. Contribution
5. Connection 
6. Growth

Schedule a free growth conversation here if you need support on your journey.


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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