During 2013, I had the privilege of speaking to a lot of groups in a live setting. My favorite part of those sessions was always the question and answer segment. Today, I’ll address a question that surfaced at more than one event: Can you instill passion in an employee?
The question behind the question has to do with the nature of motivation. Certainly, you can motivate someone externally – it was Al Capone, the noted gangster, who once said, “You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone." However, threats, coercion and external motivators are not the way you and I want to get others to act. Fear can be a motivator, but the evidence is clear, it is not a sustainable approach to achieving high performance.
So, rather than thinking about “instilling passion,” as the question asked, I’d rather activate passion. I believe everyone has passion within them. Our leadership challenge is to create the conditions in which it can be released.
Here are a few strategies that you can employ to increase your chances of finding this deep reservoir of passion resident in everyone you lead.
Give people something to get passionate about. Most people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Are you trying to accomplish something people can be passionate about?
Be sure people understand why their work matters. Can everyone see how their individual contribution contributes to the big picture? That’s line of sight. If the work doesn’t matter, you can forget stirring passion in people.
Ensure everyone is working within his/her strengths. This is not to say people cannot be passionate outside their sweet spot. However, to sustain passion over time, it certainly helps if people can excel in their work. It’s hard to excel outside your giftedness.
Set high expectations. People generally rise to the expectations leaders place on them. Also, I know very few people who are truly passionate when they aren’t giving their best. Leaders call out the best in people and this fuels passion.
Recognize the behavior you want to see repeated. If you see passion, call it out. The behaviors you recognize and reward will be repeated.
Be a passionate leader. Passion is contagious. Your team will not be more passionate than you are. Is passion a term your current team would use when describing you?
At the end of the day, if you do all these things well and you still can’t get people excited about your cause and their role in making it a reality, you may have made a bad hiring decision. If that’s the case, be sure to deal with it with appropriate urgency and passion – your people are watching.[GLS_Shield]