Scroll To Top

Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #99
(November 3, 2020)

How (and Why) to Put a Leash on Passion ...

I'm pretty sure that when you read the title of this CORE Bites issue you were left wondering why you would ever want to put a 'leash' on something like passion. Don't we want more passion in the workplace? Aren't we already concerned about the lack of passion in the workplace? Doesn't this thinking fly in the face of everything we're trying to do to increase employee engagement? All good questions ...

Passion in and of itself isn't the issue; instead, what is becoming more and more problematic is how people interpret "passion"—especially in the context of their respective careers. Think about it this way. Commencement speeches are one of the great academic traditions and, in the majority of cases, the last lesson graduating students hear before entering the real world of work. Having watched some of the top graduation speeches of all time, I've found a recurring theme that starts with a variation of "Follow your passion" and then—in every case—that message is followed with substantive pragmatic and down-to-earth advice on how to embrace work and build a successful career.

The trouble is many people walk away from these speeches only remembering the "follow your passion" segment while the rest of the advice provided is ignored or simply overlooked. This could explain why so many job seekers list "pursuing my passion" as an important goal when looking for work. The challenge here? Most people's passions have little connection to the world of work. In a social-media-induced culture that implies that everyone should (and could) transform their passions into lucrative careers—and then portrays a celebrity movie star or a celebrity athlete as an example—it's no wonder so many people in contemporary workplaces suffer from endless job swapping, professional discontent, and restless dissatisfaction.

As a pragmatist, let me offer up another way to look at passion. Passion is not something you find, but rather, it's something you DEVELOP. Consequently, passion shouldn't be defined simply by what you love to do; nor should it be defined by what you find fun doing; instead, the type of passion that makes a real difference is the passion that comes from what you CARE about.

I'm a big fan of the psychologist and author Carol Dweck (Mindset, 2006) who pioneered the seminal research on Growth Mindset. Through her research she demonstrated that some people tend to see their abilities as 'fixed' meaning you either have an inherent talent for something or you don't. Others have a 'growth mindset' meaning they believe that their abilities can change over time. Extrapolating upon that theory, people with a fixed mindset think that passion only comes once they've found the right career; the right fit; the right workplace. Conversely, people with a growth mindset believe that passion can be developed ... and that it grows over time.

It's time to move beyond the idea of "finding" passion—as if there is this one perfect job out there that you just need to discover to be happy—and, instead, develop the passion in what you do! If you do, you will never cease to grow!

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

Study your personal habits and behaviors (and the thought process leading up to these actions) to determine which are driven by a 'fixed' mindset and which are driven by a 'growth' mindset. Learn to recognize the triggers and then use the HVAs below to develop/augment your passion. [Note: You can also use this approach to help your employees develop a 'growth' mindset.]

  • Test Your Zest: While I'm not intending to replace an authentic work passion assessment, here are a few questions that differentiate 'passion' from the more general 'job satisfaction' indices: 1) How often would you say that you wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work? 2) How central/important is your work to who you are and how you identify yourself? 3) How much time do you spend thinking about your work because you enjoy it, not because you have to? As you might predict, people who score higher on these questions tend to be more passionate about their work. If you scored lower, try reframing how your work contributes value to the organization, its customers, and maybe even to society—this acknowledgment will provide greater meaning and purpose to your work. It may also be worth connecting with an enthusiastic mentor to help you develop your own talents in ways that showcase your contributions and help ignite a greater sense of passion within.
  • Adopt an Artisan Mindset: People with a 'fixed' mindset fixate on "finding passion" or on "doing what you love" which breeds an unhealthy obsession with whether or not a job is right for them. They become acutely aware of every little thing they dislike about their work and their job satisfaction and happiness tumbles. Conversely, the artisan mindset understands that no matter what occupation or field you're in, success is always about the quality of the work you do. Once you're focused on the quality of the work—and the value it brings—and not on whether (or not) the job is "right" for you, you'll be more likely to derive satisfaction from the work you do.
  • Embrace the Leidenschaft: The German word for passion is "leidenschaft." But when we take it one step further and translate it literally, "leidenschaft" actually means "the ability to hardship" which is a great metaphor when you interpret passion as something you care about because, when you care, you're much more likely to face the struggles and challenges (the "ability to hardship") with a genuine willingness to overcome. This combination of passion and perseverance gets things done in spite of the hardship and difficulties. Develop your CARE.
  • The More You Use Your Reins, the Less They'll Use Their Brains: [Bonus HVA for those who manage people] The more controls you place on people (micro-management) the less opportunity your employees will have to learn, grow and—to the point of this issue of CORE Bites—develop their own level of CARE (and passion). This is why it's critically important that you take the time to give each of your employees the knowledge ... and the skills ... and the decision-making authority (at an appropriate level) to allow them to learn and discover the value they bring (the CARE). Remember, if you Steal the Struggle, you Deny the Growth!

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."

— Nelson Mandela —