Renaissance man Kent Keith boosts our performance by honing in on what truly matters.

Show Notes

In this episode, we continue our conversation with Renaissance man Kent Keith, exploring the relationship between meaning, motivation, and performance.

Managers can often help their employees find meaning in the work they do and should take time to help others see the bigger picture or reimagine their work, when possible, as meaningful. This matters because people are usually more motivated and better when they feel connected to their work.

In this discussion, Kent also encourages managers to share the meaning they find in their work as an example for others to do the same.


• People rise to the challenge if they see meaning in their work.

• Managers can motivate their employees by highlighting how the work they do impacts others. Communicating the greater impact or the bigger picture can also help others see meaning they may have overlooked in their work.

• Meaning at work can boost motivation and performance.

• Prosocial motivation (desire to help others) + intrinsic motivation (enjoyment of the work itself) = highest levels of persistence, performance, and productivity (This is Kent’s summary of Adam Grant’s research finding in his book, Give and Take.)

• Managers may need to redesign work, where feasible, so it is more meaningful to employees.

Episode Quotes:

“People will rise to almost any challenge if it is meaningful to them.” – Kent Keith

“There’s a lot of meaning in helping other people to find meaning.” – Kent Keith

“We need more people who, as leaders and managers, are aware of the meaning they find and share the example of that.” – Kent Keith

“Managers care about meaning because it tends to unlock internal motivation, and usually that leads to better performance.” – Geoffrey Tumlin

About Kent Keith:

Kent Keith is an author, a university president, and a businessman. He’s also the kindest person you’ll ever meet.


Kent Keith (2021). The paradox of personal meaning.

Adam Grant (2013). Give and take. Viking.

Fredrick Herzberg (1968). One more time: How do you motivate employees? HBR Press. Alfie Kohn (1993). Punished by rewards. Houghton, Mifflin and Company.

Daniel Pink (2011). Drive. Canongate Books.

Keywords: Personal meaning, servant leadership, intrinsic motivation, work-life balance

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