Internalizing and Purpose

jerome macdonald Mar 02, 2021
I was working out to some 80’s rock this morning and realized I was nearing the end of my first month of retirement from the Army. Then I realized I was still conducting PT (physical Training) even though so many veterans had told me I was going to get fat and fall apart after retiring. I know it is only my first month but fitness for me had always been personal not professional as it is for so many in the military. Long ago I had internalized the value of going above and beyond the minimum expectation of physical training in the Army. With results and successes came the reinforcement of value and enjoyment through continuing my own personal fitness routines. This along with many other experiences during my Army career supported the idea of internalization being a powerful force for organizational change.
For many in the military, physical fitness is just a necessary requirement. Meeting the minimum standard is a goal for an unfortunately large population of the Army. I am not going to pretend that there are mornings that I do not want to get up and work out. However, the value that I have internalized regarding my fitness is what drives and motivates me. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with meeting the standard of physical readiness as this is what the organization has put forth for what it deems indicative of the Army being ready to meet its missions. However, this is just one example of how an organization can be so much more when leaders take the time to internalize what brings value and in turn help those they lead to internalize the same. There are three angles that have helped me to internalize specific experiences and lessons in my career: 
1. It is the right thing to do.
2. The good of the organization.
3. Personal gain. 
Personal gain does not mean for selfish reasons. I maintain my fitness because it brings value to my health and, if I am being honest, I want to see results in the mirror. Many times these angles that can inspire internalization can overlap and support each other. If more Soldiers within the Army began to personally own their own fitness, the Army would be that much more able to perform its missions and be a healthier organization. Taking care of your health is also just the right thing to do. I realize fitness is a relatively simple example, but this certainly applies to any organization in the civilian sector.   
How may times have you asked the reasoning behind a task routinely performed at your organization only to get the response: “because we’ve always done it that way.” This is a dangerous or at least ineffective way to inspire an employee to desire to bring value to the organization. If you as a leader do not know why something is done, you should find out the reasoning. It may be something needing correction, or it may have a reason that even helps you to internalize the importance of that task.  
In the end, some of the greatest moments for me in my career were when I had those “aha” moments of learning and internalizing an experience for my own or the organization’s benefit. Even better was when I was able to sit down with a peer or those I had the honor of leading and see the light dawn in their eyes when they realized the value of something they had never thought of. True positive change will come when the entire team is inspired and has internalized those tasks and ideas that bring value to the organization. Simply taking the time as a leader to explain when you do not have to can help the internalization process. It shows that you care and value the importance of the topic being explained. It shows you value the person it is being explained to. It reinforces purpose in the organization and purpose drives healthy teams.