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Passion: The Engagement Multiplier

Last week, I shared a message about the one thing that is certain to destroy engagement in any organization. I encouraged you to develop an Intentional Culture Plan. Clarify and align behavioral expectations with your values. Doing so will minimize the degree of hypocrisy. It will prevent active disengagement.

While preventing disengagement is good, inspiring active engagement is even better. And the most powerful way to engage a workforce is through passion.

However, leaders cannot manufacture passion. Sure, you can inspire with a compelling vision and message. But true passion is something different. True passion is something you and I need to discover within ourselves. Effective leaders can help us.

Here are three suggestions that leaders can employ to engage the passion of your colleagues.

Hire for the why, not the what

Acclaimed French author and poet, Antoine De Saint-Exupery once said…

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Better yet, I say hire those that already yearn for the vast and endless sea.

How often do you draft requirements for an open position that simply details the skills and responsibilities of the job? Do your candidates even consider the underlying mission of your organization? While it is important to engage talented resources, it is more important to engage inspired resources.

Update your hiring processes to emphasize the “why” over the “what.” Give preference to the under-qualified candidate who embraces the mission over the qualified candidate who can simply “do the job.” I’d rather teach an inspired doer, than activate a complacent thinker.

Discover the unique passions of your team

In many cases, we don’t have the luxury to hire colleagues that may be inspired by a shared and compelling mission. That’s okay. Sometimes, inspiration can simply come from what someone does and how they do it. When I am engaged in work I enjoy, I am more passionate about what I do.

Within my organization, I have everyone write their ideal job description. Draft your ideal job description five years from now. Ask your colleagues to do the same. Share the descriptions among the team. In doing so, you will collectively better understand the strengths, interests, and passion of your teammates.

Align team roles with their unique passions

With enhanced understanding of your colleagues, you are now in a position to better align responsibilities among the team. After doing this exercise within our team, we were able to distribute workload. I took on more analytic work that another colleague did not enjoy. That colleague embraced communication assignments that were a burden to others. The team engages another colleague for all creative design work that she loves.

We went so far as to assign informal job titles to all of our colleagues as a reminder of that which we love to do. Our team includes:

  • Chief Catalyst of Wellness
  • Chief Gardener of People
  • Chief Creative Marketeer
  • Chief Story Curator
  • Chief Learning Provocateur
  • Chief Social Energizer

These informal titles serve as daily reminders of the unique passions we offer. We are better equipped to draw the passion out of each other.

Engage the workforce

Consider these simple steps to enhance your engagement and that of your colleagues. And remember the story I shared of Ernestine Jackson in my original blog post on the topic of Workforce Zombies. Ernestine was a cafeteria worker who served food. That was not how she defined her job. She served souls.

Like Ernestine, define and craft your job in terms of “why” not “what.” Ask yourself the implications. Engage and inspire the passion of your colleagues. And, seek a better way!

Steve Wiley is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He is a certified Executive and Leadership Coach with business and engineering management degrees from William and Mary and George Washington University. He founded CEEK with the mission to help organizations redefine and pursue wellness via solutions that enhance teamwork, mitigate anxiety, promote healthy balance, and advance a values-based, leadership culture. Prior to starting CEEK, Mr. Wiley was responsible for delivering government IT services leading an account of approximately 400 employees. He is PMP certified and a graduate of the Industry Advisory Council Partners Program. Mr. Wiley’s recently released book, Navigate Chaos, was a number one best-seller on Amazon.

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