How often are you working in a group with team members you vaguely know? How well do you know the people and leaders in your department? How well do you know the leaders of your organization?

Fostering authentic relationships at work can help you become a catalyst for building a thriving workforce, where individuals are more engaged in their work, offer ideas, and feel a sense of purpose in their daily tasks. The need to connect is even more important as the shift to working from home becomes the norm – leaving us without the opportunity to have conversations with others in the breakroom or while walking together to and from meetings.

During United Way of Central Iowa’s Day of Action in September, we offered an opportunity to allow people across the community to quickly build meaningful connections with others over a virtual meeting platform. Conversations Powered by Purpose had participants break into small-group discussions to answer personal questions in 15-minute segments. Questions, such as “What motivates you to achieve your goals?” and “How can you use your strengths each day?” provided the opportunity for participants to share more about themselves to uncover their purpose, get ideas from others on how to develop their sense of purpose, and create connections that they can continue to foster beyond the meeting.

One participant shared about the experience, “It’s rare to leave a Zoom with MORE energy than when I first logged in, but this put some pep into my day.”

Here are five ways to apply Conversations Powered by Purpose at your workplace to help build relationships and foster your team’s sense of purpose.

  1. Make time for meaningful conversations. Scheduling meetings to have conversations with your coworkers may seem like a waste of time. However, creating space to learn about each other and to support each other can boost your team’s performance in the long run. You may find that as you continue to have these short 15-minute meetings, people will gain a sense of safety and trust with each other.
  1. Set expectations in advance. Being up-front about why you are hosting 15-minute, non-work-related meetings can help people feel more committed to being engaged. Explaining how it will work will help people feel comfortable participating and being vulnerable throughout the process.
  1. Provide questions in advance to guide the conversation. Sharing the discussion question before the meeting can help everyone participating be mentally prepared to share something about themselves with a group of people whom they may not know. Break into smaller groups to provide space for every person participating the opportunity to share. Be intentional about asking questions that can help move a conversation from surface level into something more meaningful in a short amount of time.
  1. Model being vulnerable. As a leader of the group, participate in these conversations to show you personally believe in the process and are willing to helps others learn more about you and what inspires and motivates you. People may be curious about your journey to leadership and what challenges you work through in your position.
  1. Mix up your teams. Set up meetings in a way that connects individuals who don’t normally have a chance to meet or talk. Try to pair people who work in different departments or those in leadership roles with front-line staff.

Are you interested in having a Conversation Powered by Purpose with your organization? United Way of Central Iowa is willing to facilitate for your team! It’s our hope this experience helps you lead more purpose-driven conversations in your workplace to maximize your talented team’s commitment to the work. Connect with Ramona (Moni) Gaukel, Volunteer Engagement Officer, at to learn more.

TAGS: Thriving Workforce, Powered by Purpose

About The Author: Sarah Welch

Sarah Welch is a communications contractor for the Thriving Workforce initiative and is the former Strategic Communications Officer at United Way of Central Iowa.