Passion. It isn’t really a business word. But why shouldn’t it be? 

How often do you talk to someone who clearly lacks any passion for what they do?  It is just a job, to pay the bills. This happened to me yesterday. I left noticing my energy levels were on the floor.  On the way home I googled passion. (I have already sent my apologies to our IT support team!). In the top 10 results, there was only 1 business, interestingly a flower retailer.  All the other results were definitions. This one from Urban Dictionary was my favourite:

“Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement, passion is ambition that is materialised into action to put as much heart, mind, body, and soul into something as is possible”.

So what can we take from this definition? 

Passion isn’t just about knowing something cognitively, it is about feeling it, and we know that feelings drive behaviour. Passion is about action – contributing your full potential and therefore achieving higher levels of performance.

We also know that working in a team that is passionate about what they do can also help stimulate creativity and innovative thinking, simultaneously boosting morale. At Nine Feet Tall, passion is one of our core values and as an employer I think we should be creating jobs where people look forward to starting work each day, not dreading it. When considering how to inject passion into what we do? Here are 5 simple ideas:

Find the higher purpose in what we do

We often have conversations in our team about the purpose of the work we do.  Sometimes it can be difficult to get passionate about creating training materials or logging defects during a long bout of user testing. However, taking a step back to consider the scope of our work as a whole, we can see we are helping to reduce the pain and stress in people’s everyday work life by smoothing the transition into a new way of working. Finding the higher purpose can help elevate any role into something that you can create a renewed passion for.

Spark debate and participation

When teams are asked to contribute to improving efficiency or output, or to suggest radical ideas that can take the organisation in a new direction, these discussions can stimulate passionate debate and real engagement. In doing this, individuals can reap the benefits of their team’s hard-earned knowledge and experience, being exposed to fresh perspectives and ideas. You are also much more likely to get these initiatives off the ground if you have actively encouraged participation in shaping their development.

Encourage learning and a growth mindset

I am always at my most energised and passionate when I am learning something new or improving my existing skills. Dan Pink, the author of four New York Time’s Bestsellers, talks about the benefits of pursuing mastery in his book Drive. which he says leads to not only an increase in engagement, but also the benefits of learning new skills, eliminating the crippling fear of failure, and generating one’s own motivation. ‘The drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging, and absorbing,’ he writes, ‘is essential for high levels of creativity,’ necessary for maximum performance in any role.’

Create autonomy wherever possible

Allowing your teams to operate autonomously within a defined framework can stimulate a more passionate commitment to work, as it allows team members to feel the weight of responsibility, but with the liberating power of being able to make decisions and learn during the process. The key here (and the difficult bit) is in defining those parameters clearly enough so that your team have the understanding, direction, and permission to go ahead without checking back in every 5 minutes. This needs to be coupled with your confidence to let them do that, knowing that they will speak to you or colleagues when they need support.  Adopting more of a coaching style of leadership, where you guide rather than tell, is very powerful and allows your team to learn. Henry Stewart captures this idea perfectly in his book The Happy Manifesto. In it, he describes 10 key principles to creating a happy workplace where autonomy is prized. The 10th and final principle in the book explores allowing your people to play to their strengths, working on things they are passionate about. He states ‘when we actually are inspired to engage in learning processes we gain considerable benefits […] There is some evidence that older people who engage in learning activities suffer less from depression and low moods. In addition, the process of setting goals and seeking to accomplish them is known to improve our well-being, especially with the sense of achievement it brings.’

Embrace the side hustle

Traditionally, side hustles have been about having a second income, often related to an interest that people feel passionate about. But we are trying to bring those interests into roles at Nine Feet Tall wherever possible. An example of this is a colleague who is very interested in mental health and its effects. Although early in her career, we discussed her interest in this area during a 1:2:1 and talked about how we could bring this into her role. 6 months later she has created our wellness programme, which has been extremely popular with the team, with monthly initiatives and communal challenges, such as fitness competitions.  

 It all starts with making some time to ask the question: “what are you passionate about?”

For more information about how to enhance your team’s performance, please contact Tiggy Robinson trobinson@ninefeettall.com

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