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.

[shareable cite=”― John C. Maxwell” text=”Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go, life is a barren field frozen with snow’ @johncmaxwell”]Hold fast to dreams…for when dreams go, Life is a barren field frozen with snow. [/shareable]

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.

[reminder]Are you passionate about your work? You can leave a comment on our Facebook page .)[/reminder]

How to Subtly Piss off Your Employees and Make’em Skedaddle

What does it take to get employee engagement down, turnover up, and your Glassdoor reputation score down in the pits? The answer is simple. Make your culture stink. Here’s how.

All Work and No Play? Jack and Jill Become Dull – no, make that EX – employees.

Step One: Don’t Let Anyone Have a Sense of Play in their jobs. I’m not suggesting that a lack of ping pong tables and Nerf guns is going to sink your company. Far from it. That’s not the kind of play I’m talking about. (Although group recreation can have a positive effect on employee morale and performance – and many convicted murderers have never played!).

I’m talking about the idea that if your team members really enjoy what they’re doing – it can be as fun as play. So, what does that take? At highly innovative companies (think Southwest Airlines, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon), employees are free to put their ideas and their personality into their jobs. If you’ve ever had SWA flight attendants sing the safety instructions to you, you’ve experienced one way in which play can be effective in business.

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Play is the way we learn: It’s tied to curiosity, experimentation, and exploring challenging problems. All of those are things that make businesses grow.

Leaders can maximize this motivation first by matching the right people with the right positions. Once matched, give team members the freedom to apply their passion, their ideas, and their curiosity to solving the challenges that lead to success for them and for the company.

Does it matter? If they don’t care, they’re not going to stick with it.

Step 2: Hire people that don’t value what the company does, or their role in it. One of the first jobs I had out of college was working for a book publisher, managing the back list…all those books that need to be reprinted. A huge part of why I loved that job was because we published books that helped people grow. Every time I reprinted another 5000 books – that was 5,000 people I was helping with their relationships, their parenting, their spiritual life or their finances. On the other hand, marketing software that helped the telephone company make more money? Meh. Not so fulfilling.

Not that helping companies make more money is bad. For me, it just wasn’t a match to what I valued most in life.

“Behind every winning organization is a unique identity,” writes Lee Williams of, “one that sets it apart from others and gives employees a strong sense of belonging, ownership, value, and meaning.”  Who wouldn’t prefer to work where he or she felt part of a greater purpose?

When leaders maximize the match between corporate mission and individual purpose during the hiring process, they maximize the likelihood that employees will stay and thrive in their jobs. Every day, keeping the intrinsic purpose of the company front and center brings satisfaction to employees. If you want them to leave, make it all about margins, accounts won, market share, and them being darn lucky to be employed.

All Take and No Give? If they don’t grow, they’ll go.

Step 3: Avoid giving your employees opportunities for personal growth. I worked at a small startup where the founder-owner cast a vision of the company as a place where each of us could work long-term, with a huge payoff for those who loyally did. A key part of his strategy for keeping employees was to invest in their personal growth. It was marvelous! I needed to create a marketing database that couldn’t be bought off the shelf. I was given permission to learn SQL and use that knowledge to develop customized reporting. I needed to learn how to be a better manager and team player. I was sent to the Dale Carnegie Course. Three to four times a year, we all took part in management training and consultant workshops that not only developed our workplace skills, but also our character and relational skills. Many, but not all those original two dozen employees stayed with the company for a decade and longer.

When the outcome of work benefits the individual’s identity, the work enhances his or her potential. By giving employees the opportunity to develop new skill sets, receive training, or try new things, leaders can harness their natural self-interest to create a win-win scenario.

So there you have it. The formula for sick culture: (Stifle Play.)+ (Obscure any connection between company purpose and individual Purpose.) x (Neglect developing an employee’s Potential.) = High Turnover & Poor Performance.

Now, on the chance that you might really want to build a great company culture, just flip those around. Focus on why people work, and connect that why with every prospective employee and teach every manager the leadership skills to guide your current employees. Behavioral screening such as that done by ZeroRisk HR and other companies is a great way to ensure that you’re interviewing people who will find personal growth and fulfillment at work. And leadership training and coaching from certified members of The John Maxwell Team will guide your leaders into the habits and mindset that nurture the culture you really want.

[reminder preface=”Think about this:”]What kind of culture do you really want? Do you promote or stifle play (curiosity, fun, innovation) at work? Is there a match or a disconnect between your purpose and the company mission? Do you grow at work? Do you help others grow? [/reminder]