In the complexities of our high-tech, global and cross-cultural world, understanding the fundamental role of leadership can be daunting. Most leaders rise through the ranks as a result of technical expertise with little leadership development. Leadership is one of those important but not urgent tasks, which gets pushed further and further down the list as more pressing matters demand our attention. When I poll executives and managers in my workshops, most say they spend less than 1% of their time a year consciously developing their leadership skills.
What is the role of the leader in creating a passionate workplace? And, more fundamentally, what is passion in the context of a workplace? Hopefully, most of us have had at least one passionate work experience; a time at work when we were so completely engaged that we felt blessed to be in that situation. For many of us, these times are rare; for some of us, more common. Regardless of how often we’ve had this experience, could we explain what gave rise to this strong emotion?
Passion has long been desired. For example, Howard Schultz, the Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, often speaks of passion. Starbucks' advertisements have often focused on passion. Schultz’s book, Pour Your Heart Into It, references passion, on average, once every three pages. He is very clear: “Passion is, and will always be, a necessary ingredient. Even the world’s best business plan won’t produce any return if it is not backed with passion and integrity.”
It’s clear that most of us desire a passionate work experience and, as leaders, want to support others on that journey. But do we know how to create this for ourselves and for others? Our research, carried out over the past ten years, has clearly shown that there are two main drivers of passion in the workplace: Meaning and Progress. Emerging from this research, is our definition of passion: “Passion is a strong emotion that happens within each of us when we are doing meaningful work at a pace that feels like real progress.”
To create passionate teams that generate highly-satisfying results, leaders must become Managers of Meaning and Progress. There are many ways to manage meaning and progress. Any manager can find her own path by simply asking herself: “How can I make the meaning in this explicit? How can I provide a context for progress?” Leaders need to constantly promote how the work is meaningful; and, if it is devoid of meaning, then leaders need to stand up for change. Leaders also need to be a bridge between the past and the future and provide a context for progress, articulating from where we have come and pointing forward towards our destination, to stimulate further action.
Life is not obliged to have a purpose; however, the human spirit is a wonderful entity. It craves meaning in the form of purpose, values, and desired end results. It also must see the fruits of its labor. When action does not beget forward movement, the spirit is bruised. Leadership plays a fundamental role in uplifting the spirit by connecting and re-connecting people to their aspirations and encouraging them to take actions to serve that which matters most. When leaders manage meaning and progress in this way, extraordinary things happen.
Know Your People
What Stimulates Meaning in Each Team Member?
When people feel that what they produce at work matters to you and others, they feel that their work is meaningful. When they feel that the processes they use to accomplish their work are excellent and make a difference to others, they feel that their work is meaningful.
The products and processes that create feelings of meaning in one person do not necessarily have the same impact on others. It is important to become clear on what stimulates meaning for each of your team members in their work.
Along our journey, we look around us for evidence that we are getting somewhere. For example, some of us might look to our leaders for recognition; some of us might view client feedback as a signal of our progress; others amongst us look at the hard numbers to confirm forward movement. Signals of progress come in many forms but at the end of the day, they all serve the same purpose which is to tell us that we are on track towards our meaningful goals.
When people feel as though they are moving something important forward, they feel progress. People need progress to experience passion at work. It is important to become clear on the signals for progress your team looks for at work.
Although we need to know our people as individuals, we also need to create a culture which creates shared drivers of meaning and progress. The following story exemplifies how this might operate:
As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, states: “Nothing great can happen without beginning first with passion. If you’re not passionate, you can’t possibly make it great!”
The following programme organised by SIM Professional Development, will be conducted by either Jacqueline Throop-Robinson or Magdalene Sik:
For more information, please contact Kelly Ko at (65) 6248 9417 or email email@example.com