More than 2,000 years ago, Virgil wrote, “Your profession is what you were put on earth to do with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” People want to be called up. They don’t want to work for you so much as to work on something important and meaningful. And what’s good for them is good for you. Loyal, passionate employees bring a company as much benefit as loyal, passionate customers. They stay longer, work harder, work more creatively, and find ways to go the extra mile. In a world where 75% of people feel disconnected from their jobs, imagine the huge impact of helping people put more passion into the work that they do.
People will only be passionate about work that they have the ability to execute with excellence. In our June workshop, Mark Sandborn suggests all great workplace performances are a combination of Passion, Discipline and Activity. To be passionate about what we do, we must like our work and like our customers. Discipline is the ability to do the job right whether or not we feel like it. Activity is doing those things that create a remarkable performance, in the mind of our employers, our employees, and our customers.
Passion and process improve a workplace performance. Passion without process like a gallon of gas without an automobile – you have the fuel but no way to use it. Passion is what distinguishes a remarkable performance from an ordinary performance.
One source of passion is loving your job. The problem is many of us believe that we are not passionate about everything we do at work so we discount the other three sources of passion. If we’re not wild about what we’re doing we can still be passionate about how we do it. A great teacher will infuse the most humdrum course material with vigor and wit. We can be passionate about why we’re doing something. As Nietzsche wrote: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” We can be passionate about who we are doing it for. Adding a person – a customer, a coworker, a friend, a relative – into the mix makes it easier to feel passionate about what we are doing. In the workplace, passion is the difference between great and good, remarkable and average.
Mark Sandborn identifies five keys to remarkable performance:
The first is Preparation. We control how prepared we are. The best performance looks easy because it is the best prepared. Only an amateur wings it. One step to better preparedness is at the beginning of each week, to outline what we’re trying to accomplish that week. This is something we can do with our teams. For example, Monday morning meetings are a tool we can use to prepare, to review what happened the week before and outline what needs to happen in the week ahead.
One US Olympic gymnast said that the difference between a winner and finisher is those extra 15 minutes spent on the mat. The second key to remarkable performance is Practice. In business we don’t practice often enough, and lacking practice how can we get better? We can practice in play – be attentive to what we learn each day and do things with the intention of learning and improving. Practice in play is being mindful during performance. We can also practice outside of play – make time out of work to improve the skills we need to be successful. One approach is to ask the question: “In my job what are those critical activities that make for a remarkable performance?”, and then “What are the skills I need to know to perform these critical activities successfully?” These are the skills we should learn and practice until we excel at them.
The third key is Performance. Every great performance changes people’s behavior, makes them laugh, makes them think, makes them feel good. The best sales presenters, best trainers and coaches, best leaders incorporate all four elements into their work, and pay attention to how much fun people are having.
The fourth key is Polish. Polish is the ability to keep getting better, never stop learning, never stop improving.
Lastly, the fifth key is how we deal with Pitfalls. There are three types of pitfalls. Avoidable pitfalls are generally self-inflicted. A man who walks into a meeting late because the traffic is bad could have avoided that pitfall by leaving earlier. Pitfalls we can foresee but can’t avoid, we can plan a strategy to prepare for them. The third category of pitfalls – things that surprise us – we cannot avoid or plan for, but we can acknowledge the problem promptly, apologize, and show a sense of humor as appropriate.
When we give ourselves and our teams the tools and opportunities to deliver a remarkable performance, and deliver it with passion, then we will take our organizations to the next level.