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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jan 13, 2023


Much of the discussion around flexible work has focused on the ‘where’ of work. It turns out the ‘when’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ of work matter even more.



Welcome to episode 169 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how the discussions around flexible work are often the wrong way around. Instead of starting with the ‘where’, we should begin with the ‘why’.

A lot of discussion about flexible work has focused on the ‘where’ of work. Can I work at home instead of the office? If so, how many days a week? Are you going to force me to come in particular days?

Interestingly, a recent survey of 10,000 knowledge workers in the US found the ability to set their own hours was even more important than working from home. While 78% of workers wanted flexibility for where they worked, 95% wanted flexibility over when they worked.

While people are focused on the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of their jobs, the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of work provide even greater opportunities to engage and motivate people.

Clarifying the ‘why’ of the work involves identifying why this work matters, the broader purpose people are contributing to, and how this role contributes to that purpose. This sense of purpose helps with motivation - people are more motivated when they feel like they are contributing to something meaningful and important. And it also ensures people are working in the same direction. When things are unclear, they can refer back to this broader purpose to guide their decision making and efforts. This is what I describe as aligned motivation - people are motivated and heading in the same direction. But it’s possible to be aligned and not motivated, so what else can we do to motivate others?

Deci and Ryan’s work shows motivation is about providing autonomy, building capability and confidence, and fostering a sense of belonging through meaningful connections. If you’re interested in how leaders practically do this you can take a look at our Leadership Practices in the Leadership Today app for a free assessment and tips.

When you’re seeking to engage your people, it’s easy to become drawn into a discussion about the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of work. Instead, make sure you begin with the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of work before moving on to the ‘when’ and ‘where’.



Katherine Bindley and Chip Cutter. Workers Care More About Flexible Hours Than Remote Work , Wall Street Journal.