Five Ways to Fan Passion’s Flame at Work

Call it Drive, call it Motivation, call it Cultural Alignment – whatever you call it, fundamentally, it’s passion at work.

What is Passion?

In relationships, passion is that unstoppable rush that propels everything toward a highly desired goal. It’s frenetic, energized emotion and action. For sports fans, passion is that enthusiasm that drives affinity (buying anything with the team logo on it), builds community (that’s why sports bars are popular) and patience (Just think about those passionate Cubs fans! Speaking of Cubs fans, consider this: the root meaning of passion is “suffer” … !)

In business, passion is no different. Passion stimulates high-energy effort, patient endurance, and an unstoppable belief that the vision — and the next step to getting there – is achievable. It builds community at the office in the form of formal and ad hoc teams.

That’s why every hire matters. If you’re not asking yourself and your next employees if they are excited and committed to make the corporate vision reality, you’re sinking your own boat. Your candidates don’t necessarily need to come from a specific background, have a specific degree, or ascribe to a certain social status.  But, they DO need to have passion about what the company does, and what they can individually contribute to wild success.

Discover and Value the Passions of Your Team

Can you see passion? You bet! It’s very tangible. You can feel it in a room. Customers can feel it in your products and services. Everyone knows when it’s lacking, and when it IS lacking, it is usually lacking in a leader. As you lead your company, department or team, you can choose the attitudes that will grow your own passion and spark the passion of others:

  • Decide to COMMIT to the company’s mission. When the company succeeds will you celebrate (beyond throwing a beach party for your family with your bonus check!)? Does your commitment create in you a patient determination to “suffer” in order to see the vision become reality? If you’re thinking “no”, then increase your team’s passion by moving yourself to another company!
  • Decide to CELEBRATE rather than be threatened by the skills and talents of your team members. It really is true that you should be the dumbest person in the room. Does someone on your team do certain things better than you? Set them free! Let them do those things in the sweet spot of their skill, personality and desire. Brag about them to others in and outside of your team. Promote their successes.
  • Decide to CLARIFY the passions of your team members. Find out what makes them want to get up in the morning, what makes them celebrate. What glowing stories have they told their friends and family after work? How does working in this company help them achieve their dreams? If it turns out that they aren’t passionate and won’t be, help them find their way to a job that’s a better fit…it will be a gift to them and to your team.

Model Your Passion

To instill passion in your team, you must first model the passion you wish to see in others. Passion ignites at the top — if a team doesn’t see enthusiasm, commitment, and patient passion in their leader, their own passion will lose energy and focus. They’ll direct their energies toward tasks, activities and people that may not be strategic to the team’s or the company’s path. They may even divert those energies to projects outside the workplace – leaving your team and your company simply a means to put food on the table. When work becomes utilitarian, people burn out quickly.  Exhibit your own desire through:

  • Transparent Emotion: When you are physically, verbally and non-verbally expressing your positive emotional energy about the work, the vision and the goal attainment, you’re not only infusing your team with that energy, you’re also giving them tacit permission to express their own emotional energy as they journey on the path of iteratively thinking executing, failing, and succeeding.
  • Strategic Goals: When you can explicitly tie the “why” of what your team is doing every day back to the vision, everyone gains a sense of purposeful contribution. “What I do TODAY matters. I FIT into the big picture.”
  • Extravagant Action: Your energy and your strategy have to translate to action, but not just ordinary, behind-the-scenes action. Take action with extravagance. Accomplish each task with the “But, wait… there’s more!” vibe of TV’s best pitchmen. Work in front of others, not shrouding what you do and how you’re doing it until it’s all polished and perfect. The Journey of Flaws always wins the applause – and the get-on-the-bandwagon team participation that you need and want.

Make Passion Viral

A team that sees passion in their leader may “catch” the vibe, but as Seth Godin taught us in his book The Idea Virus, these things don’t just happen without some sneezing. Sneezers are those that pass along an idea enthusiastically, and Godin tells us we should spend some time and thought to stimulate sneezes. The same principlel holds within your team and your company. Stimulate and reward the sneezers, those with social influence. Remember, passion not only implies commitment, but an aura of importance — and people want to feel as if they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. Remind everyone of that with frequent recognition that isn’t just tied to the task, but to the vision. Although we tend to think this is uniquely true for Millennials, everyone values meaning and purpose over paychecks and stock options.

Learn to Lead the Team to the Dream

John Maxwell has said that we should “Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams go, life is a barren field frozen with snow.” Building and growing an effective team is hard, diligent work. It takes a high degree of Emotional Intelligence and more than a fair amount of personal inventory-taking. That kind of work is always faster with the help of a coach who can help you unlock your unconscious desires, traps and obstacles. Good coaching guides you to think, rather than becoming a source of advice. Other tools you and your team can employ to increase passion and performance include mastermind groups focused on teams. Assessment tools such as the John Maxwell’s Leadership Game will help you and your team identify gaps between what you think should be happening in your team and what really is happening. You can tap into these solutions and more here.

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