It seems like a paradox doesn’t it? Why would someone be passionate about their work? I believe that helping people discover passion in the way they work is part of the leaders challenge. Work ought to be liberating, empowering and thrilling. If you work near a great leader, you may find work so engrossing that you can’t wait to get up in the morning and work a long day to do a lot of things. Perhaps you have had highly meaningful work – not everyone has experienced this.
What is passion? Passion is an experience of energy and interest that pulls one into focus. Passion is a high energy state; it is a high interest, state. One often feels emotions when passion is running high. Work and meaningful effort ought to be something that one feels energetic, interested and emotional about.
Leaders help people get passionate about their work by connecting individual needs to a cause bigger than oneself. A truly passionate person understands that his or her work makes a difference; the passionate worker can see a direct connection between the intensity of labor and helping other people enjoy their life.
Without passion, what is work? We know too many people whose work as a drudge, a burden. “Get it over with as soon as possible and then it’s Miller time.” Without passion, work is simply labor, and effort of muscle and boredom.
How is it possible to discover passion through work? Most of us have parts of our job that we enjoyed more than others. A few people enjoy all aspects of their work. Those people are fortunate because work is never labor. Even for those people who are not so fortunate, some part of the day has more pleasure than others.
I made a systematic effort to discover the work that I enjoyed several years back. I kept a work journal for a week. Every 15 minutes, I wrote down my activity with on a colored index card. If I chose a green card, that meant I was enjoying the work. A yellow card meant that I could tolerate the work, and a red card was used if the work was not meaningful for me – I hated it. At the end of the week, I had a large collection of cards that represented my assessment of my work over a five-day period. I looked at all the green cards and tried to discern what it was about those activities that gave me pleasure and passion. Reflecting on my work and considering what came easiest for me, I found three working areas that came easiest for me.
One of those working areas was talking to people about their career, and taking notes about what they had done. Now I talk to people about their careers more than ever, and I added talking to them about what makes them successful. I feel passionate about these conversations – after I have had a good conversation about personal success, I feel lifted.
We can all add more passion to our work if we simply pay attention. Of course, I believe working with a great leader will make a big difference in the passion department too.
Steve Broe is an executive coach and author. He lives in Scottsdale Arizona. He answers the question, “How does leadership help people become successful?” in his new book, Leading the Way Up Mt. Olympus, now available on Amazon.