The Productivity of Passion
By Lawler Kang
Why do some people, teams, and even entire organizations seem to excel,
particularly in the face of daunting odds?
They may not have the best product or service on the market
(yet); they may be in the midst of that cantankerous process of trying
to figure, or re-figure, what their life or work niche might be.
So what is it that can generate that glow that seems to envelop their
respective bodies? What is
the secret that can keep people merrily working until all hours of the
night, that can transcend all the petty in-fighting and time-sucking
political maneuvering that plagues most organizations?
What causes the coalescence of enterprise thought, the
dismantling of silos, and the ability to happily report to your
Intuitively, you know the answer (without even reading the title of this
piece). Having and
instilling a passion for your work (and life) is a surefire way to
draw on your and your team’s best efforts.
And framing these passions in the context of a personal and
corporate mission only removes another layer of obliqueness from the
filters of your Life’s Work.
Why does passion play such a role in increasing productivity?
There are a few reasons. First,
and not to belabor the obvious: passionate people are, for the most
part, happy. From a
workplace and “workmind” standpoint, being happy is worth its
weight in oil. Do you think your performance would increase if Peg
around the corner would simply stop nagging you about her boss?
If your team meetings carried an air of optimism in lieu of
that uncanny glum feeling of “I’d rather be anywhere, even a tax
audit, than here”? Happiness
breeds happiness and team happiness breeds performance of a
Another productive benefit of working your passions is focus. You have
mooted out or de-prioritized the bevy of ‘things that must get done
or the sky will fall.’ (And to my knowledge, no skies have fallen,
save a few raindrops in Los Angeles, as of the time this piece
was written). You know
what is important to you and your team and you are pushing forward
with the strength of Goliath and the precision of David.
What a powerful combination!
A final performance booster generated by swallowing the passion pill is
that your personal and team goals will be as closely aligned as they
ever can be. This
interplay between matching your personal passions with the objectives
of your group is the application that kills moribund results.
Here are two questions you can ask yourself – right now – to spark
your synapses into impassioned action and generate better productivity
in your organization:
we on the same page? Do
your reports share your personal and corporate goals?
How aligned are their passions, proficiencies, values and
priorities with the demands of your objectives and your own assets
and liabilities as a manager?
Have you noticed tensions that can only be partially
explained, even by conjecture, that are impeding your team’s
If so, you need to do some digging to first unearth these potential
misalignments and then bury them in the fertile earth of reality, and
this can mean making some objective decisions about who you want and
need working with you. Remember,
the flipside of this argument is also true: low passion encourages and
enables low productivity.
can I leverage my colleague’s collective passions, proficiencies
and priorities? First,
you must identify what they are for each individual and then run
them through a reality check for good measure.
What you discover may be surprising.
Passions you never expected people to manifest explode from
their casings. Proficiencies
– both strengths and weaknesses – are understood and compared
(remember, you want teams whose strengths in
aggregate are fit for the task).
Rich life experiences your employees can contribute and even a
glimpse of their dreams come to light.
And what is important to them in life, work and compensation
Having access to this information can be incredibly powerful in a
variety of contexts. Harnessing
their passions with flexible straps will have a pronounced effect on
their performance. Matching
their assets and downplaying their liabilities also helps.
Being able to reward them in a variety of means that are
specific to their individual desires doesn’t hurt either.
A case of wine or a day at the spa can produce much more than
mere drunken relaxation.
your employee’s passions shine. Encourage them to
bring something in that represents their passions and start off
your weekly check-in meeting with a quick, five minute show and
tell as to the finer points of macramé, cooking, fishing or
surfing. You can also
look to see how you might be able to incorporate even the
slightest nuance of their passions into their personal and
team’s daily lives, communications and surroundings: a nickname,
new award, art on a wall, dedication of a particular process
devised by the employee after his favorite fishing hole, etc.
Get your team’s creative juices flowing!
What is truly noteworthy is how the mere fact you are going through this
process with your employees and your willingness to incorporate their
inputs into their working environment creates a gravity around meeting
your (in the plural sense) targets that is hard to pull away from.
This last point deserves some additional support.
Going through these processes can be a testing and trying
process; things oftentimes need to get ‘worse’ before they get
better, though without getting ‘worse’ they will never improve.
Attrition spanning the range of performance review results may
increase in the short-term and nobody but a few blessed and
masochistic souls really enjoys change, no matter what they say.
The support is this: we all should, and dare I say MUST think hard about
integrating the productive power of our passions into our work.
Our economy is not growing by gains in our export sector, and
there is only so much increase in productivity that can be wreaked
from IT advances, down and out-sizing, and mobile working.
It is the passions of the American workforce, whose education,
fortitude and resources are the envy of the world, and their creative
uses that will be a significant factor in keeping our nation’s
economy, and our way of life, under our control.
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