Passion - Finding It In Your Life;|
Building It In Your Business
by Jackie & Kevin Freiberg
We ask audiences all over the world, “How many of you would like to turn up the volume on passion in your organization?” The response is overwhelming. Every hand in the room goes up. There’s almost a universal sense that, regardless of the personal or professional objective, there is no substitute for passion and enthusiasm. Whether the issue is finding new ways to add value to customers, managing costs out of the business, embracing changes brought on by technology and the Internet, attracting world-class talent, or raising the level of employee satisfaction and retention, passion is one of the great differentiators.
Passion is one of those things that are hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. Whether it is the force of a 15-foot wave, the roar of a waterfall, a majestic mountain range, or a giant oak that has weathered the elements and withstood the test of time, it is hard to overlook the passion evident in nature. Any one who has ever watched Tiger Woods play golf, Garth Brooks perform in concert, Picabo Street storm down a mountain, Robin Williams act, Oprah Winfrey conduct an interview or Jimmy Connors compete on the tennis court, has seen the fires of passion burn in an almost uncontrollable way.
We saw passion in the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team and we saw it again in 1999 when the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team captured the hearts of a nation. Read Nelson Mandela’s 1994 Inaugural speech; view the pictures of Mother Teresa coddling a baby with AIDS; or replay your memories of a 28-mile-long symbol of Communist suppression called the Berlin Wall as it disappeared into a sea of humanity. In each case, you will be moved by the passion that enabled ordinary people to stand up against extraordinary odds.
What is Passion? Passion is a force—sometimes an uncontrollable force—that infuses life with meaning, joy, and even outrage. In any event, passion fosters commitment and determination. Passion is an urge or desire that consistently calls us to action, often radical action. Passion can be used or misused. When guided by the wrong motives, passion can be very dangerous. When guided by the desire to help people lead bigger, richer, fuller lives, passion has the potential to help create a better world. Passion is the fire that burns within. It often starts as a spark or a flame and eventually turns into a blazing fire that stirs the soul. Passion is that incredibly compelling emotion that enables us to go places others are afraid to go, to try things others are afraid to do and to be the kind of people others are afraid to be! Passion creates the energy and drive required to do what others think is impossible.
Made in the Image of a Passionate God
We were made in the image of a passionate God who honors us with His extravagant love and takes great joy and satisfaction in watching us use our gifts and talents for worthy purposes. We were made in the image of a passionate God who is outraged by the oppression and dehumanization of the people He loves. If the God of the universe is absolutely passionate about His creation and we’re made in His image, then passion is a part of our very nature. The potential to become a passionate people has been built into us from the very beginning. It is inherent in who we are and how we’re made.
If you doubt this, study the attitudes and behaviors of little children. Next time you’re with children, watch closely, and you’ll see that these little people are passionate. They’re easily excited and they have relatively few fears about expressing their enthusiasm. They are turned-on by an innate curiosity that stimulates learning. And, when they learn, they can hardly contain themselves long enough to tell you about their new discoveries. Children are also not afraid to express their outrage. Whether it’s a friend who is not sharing, an empty stomach, or the realization that bedtime is near, we see with laser clarity their passion and conviction as they communicate their discontent.
As an adult, to work in an organization that does not cultivate your passion is to work in an environment that does not recognize who you are and how you are made. It’s as unnatural as taking a highly trained Thoroughbred that was made to run and putting it in a stable of trail horses. You kill the spirit of the horse! In organizations, what has happened to those people who demonstrate no passion and have no sense of aliveness? How do we cultivate or rekindle the passion some people seem to lose between childhood and adulthood? Good questions for which there are no easy answers and certainly no quick fixes.
Learning what makes people passionate comes from being in relationship with them. That’s why leaders who spend time with their people and are in touch with their needs have an competitive advantage over those who don’t. They develop the ability to better understand what their people were made to do and what turns them on. The demands placed on every business in the 21st Century will require that people bring all of who they are to the game. Actively engaged hearts and minds, unwavering commitment, laser focus, and relentless determination are all motivated by passion. There’s a tremendous opportunity for the leaders who are willing to understand and cultivate passion in their organizations and embrace it as a strategic weapon!
Cultivating Passion in Your Business
Many factors contribute to creating passion in an organization. Reducing passion to a formula would be both naive and uninformed. That said, in our research with “really cool companies” we have discovered three major approaches to cultivating a work environment where people are passionate about what they do. These include helping people:
Passion, in part, is the result of reflecting on what it means to be successful. Through their own career development programs, really cool companies encourage their employees to ask three very important questions:
Many of us have experienced the frustration of being engaged in work that we’re good at but not passionate about. Others have felt the despair of being excited about something for which they lack the requisite skills. Still others know the difficulty of building a career on talents and passions for which the organization has no use. The result is a deadness that pervades the organization.
What makes the really cool companies REALLY COOL is that they understand the importance of “fit.” They work hard to help people carve out places in the business where the answers to these three questions align to create one big “YES.” The result is meaningful success.
Are your employees engaged in work that truly utilizes their gifts and talents? Are they doing what they’re good at? Even if they are extremely good at their jobs are your people enthusiastic? Do they like what they do? Does their work add value to the organization in a significant way? What adjustments do you need to make in your business to create a better fit?
Transform Projects into Really Cool Projects
World-class people want to be involved in work that matters—projects that have meaning, projects that are memorable, projects that will change the world! Cool projects stimulate the passion in everyone. They’re the things from which legends and legacies are made. People love to tell stories about being on a cool project team. These stories give rise to the warrior spirit and reinforce the values driving the business.
Read Tom Peters’ book, The Project 50: Fifty Ways to Transform Every “Task” Into a Project That Matters! Peters says that if the project you’re working on now is not a WOW, you should transform it, reframe it, and redefine it until you fall in love with it. Why is this so important? Primarily because the projects your employees are working on today are statements about who they are, what they think, and how they feel. What do the projects in your organization say about your people, your company, and your leadership? How many of your people are working on projects right now that five years from today no one will remember? What does your answer say about the level of passion and enthusiasm in your business? What does it say about your competitive position in the marketplace?
Really cool projects have several things in common:
Define the Work in Terms of a Heroic Cause
One of the deepest needs of human existance is to know that our lives count for something. Our significance ultimately depends on the fact that we are created by God. Period. End of story. However, most people want to know that the gifts and talents God gave them are being used to make a difference as we live out our lives in the work-a-day world.
Since work is so much a part of our lives, we want it to be meaningful. To know that our work counts for something important is to know that we count. That’s why mundane work sucks the life out of people and leaves them feeling anonymous and alienated. They go home at the end of the day emotionally drained with little or nothing left to give their loved ones.
Really cool companies make it a priority to help employees see the ultimate value they bring to the world. They do this by helping people see how their individual contributions at work and in the community link to a larger, nobler cause. It’s the janitor in a large health care system who believes he’s a part of saving lives; it’s the photo developer who knows that she preserves people’s memories; it’s the tax compliance specialist who gives people peace of mind; and it’s the sailor who understands that the combat readiness of his ship strengthens peace negotiations in the Middle East. When people establish a connection between what they do and changing the world for the better, heroism is the result.
Everyone wants to feel heroic about something because at the heart of heroism is meaning and significance. Heroism fuels the fires of passion and passion is the key to perseverance in the midst of demands for better service, higher quality, lower prices, and faster innovation.
The really cool companies are more than just places people go to earn a paycheck and a set of benefits. They’re places where people with shared values and a common vision define their work in terms of a heroic cause. The cause is heroic because it has to do with changing the world and making it better. When work becomes a cause what follows is a movement.
Movements are adventures that tap into our highest ideals. They help us express what we’re truly passionate about. Really cool companies are extremely attractive places to work because they give people the opportunity to be a part of something meaningful, exciting, and adventurous—something larger than them. At the end of the day people are physically tired, but emotionally charged because their work allows them to pursue something they deeply believe in. The result is passion!
When you get beyond profitability and shareholder return (without which nothing significant can happen), what is the ultimate value your people bring to the world? What is the heroic cause for which you fight? When your people define the business as a cause, a movement worth fighting for, you will find that there is no height to which their spirits cannot rise. You will also find that you have cultivated something that is extremely difficult to replicate.
The Business Case for Passion
Is there a business case for cultivating passion in your organization? Is it really a competitive advantage? Can passion make a difference in terms of accomplishing your organization’s objectives? Consider the benefits:
Copyright Jackie & Kevin Freiberg. All Rights Reserved.
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