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Passion Unpacked

The business community loves to talk about passion. What is your passion? People are more motivated when they are passionate. People are more engaged when they have passion for the topic. Great! Let’s all get passionate!

If passion is so important, we should be able to manufacture it. Right? How could something so important be left to chance? If we’re hiring for passion, how will we know it when we see it? Clearly, we need some definition around passion. What it is. How to get it.

The dictionary defines passion as a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” There are specifics offered within. The third bullet says, “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.” That sounds about right. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time maintaining an “intense desire” for work on an ongoing basis.

Let’s talk about something I am passionate about. If you watch my YouTube videos, you already know I’m passionate about music. I love listening to it and making it. Where did this passion come from? Both of my parents love music. My mother is also a musician (not professional, but…passionate).

I’ve probably always loved music since I discovered it as a child. Was I passionate about it? Probably not. I played in the school band. I was still not passionate. When I was 16 years old, I took up the bass guitar. I was still not passionate.

Eventually, I got good enough to play in a band. I ignited my passion! Making music with others was a key ingredient. Over time, my passion grew. It grew with my accomplishment. For me, accomplishment and passion are inextricable. Lately, I’ve started to develop a passion for disc golf. I’m not great at playing the bass or disc golf, but I have made considerable progress after putting in consistent effort over a long period.

I have seen passion evolve this way in those close to me. There may be such a thing as genetic passion. Still, I suspect it is nothing more than a predisposition to be exploited into passion by future effort and accomplishment.

Given this, how do we unlock passion at work? Individual accomplishments can unlock passion, but many of us don’t have a continuous stream of opportunities to achieve personal accomplishments. On the other hand, teams should always have something in the hopper. Great teams are full of passionate people. How did they get that way?

Two ingredients are necessary:

  1. They must aim high -- taking on lofty goals that will stand out.

  2. EVERYONE on the team must be fully engaged in the process.

The second ingredient is the hardest. It’s easy to exclude team members from the excitement of the chase for one reason or another. Maybe they don’t have a natural role to play. Perhaps they are out of their depth. Whatever the reason, figure out how to overcome it. Assign them to pair with someone who can teach them new, more helpful skills. Have them utilize hidden talents. However you do it -- when everyone is engaged, the whole team shares the accomplishment, and passion gets ignited.

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