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Chris Bailey

Steve, you've managed to provoke some terrific dialogue. What I'm loving about this topic thread is that you're digging deeper and provoking new thoughts to the surface. Let me toss in a bit of my own personal situation to give it a reality check:

Currently, I'm feeling run down by work that increasingly feels like a J-O-B. I'm losing my passion for it. I can actually feel it receding away like the ocean tide. I know what my strengths are and what I love to do...and I feel that I don't have a chance to utilize these in my work with my organization. Now, does my manager read All Things Workplace? Probably not, but yeah, he should. In this case, it's me who needs to take the first step to guide the passion along. More generally, sometimes it's the employee (or the even manager) who needs to bring her or his own manager to the table for this dialogue.

It would be great if all managers got the memo suggesting that they can perpetuate passion. That may not be entirely fair to lay this all at their feet, though. The employee has to be there, too. The employee needs to know what they love, what they want to do, what will connect into their purpose...and they must be willing to share this.

And who knows...maybe the employee might lead the manager to a new understanding of how to connect their passion and purpose to the work they do.

Jim Stroup


Thanks for the wonderful job expanding on the meaning of passion in the workplace, and your generous reference to my comment in that effort.

I want to say here that I am impressed with Chris's approach to the topic, and his means of introducing it. He is absolutely right: "the employee has to be there" - his suggestion that employees may sometimes have to take the initiative to address this issue with their managers is excellent.

I also fully support the idea that employees might teach the manager much about how this and other influences in the workplace operate - that idea lies behind much of my own thinking.

However, I want to add this (which I don't think necessarily conflicts with Chris's comment): On the one hand, the fact that managers have the fiduciary duty to "lead" doesn't mean that they personally have to display that leadership. On the other, the fact that employees bring to their work much, if not most, of the passion and creativity upon which the organization depends does not mean that the expression of these characteristics should be left to - or surrendered - to those employees. Certainly, holding them primarily responsible for simply exhibiting these traits will likely prove unhelpful.

I argue that the principle role of a manager in the context of this discussion is to establish the environment in which passion - to the extent that it will - can flourish and express itself productively in that workplace. That places everyone "there" - but it puts the manager on the spot for it, where, I think, he or she belongs.

Steve Roesler


Now that gets to the heart of the matter as well as any example thus far. You've put things into the perspective of adult truth: in a relationship of any sort, both people have a responsibility to initiate a discussion when something changes. At work, that includes goals, tasks, and yes, interests.

You also highlighted another key element: that people (employees) need to know what it is that they love to do in order to have a legitimate conversation with their boss. It's not the boss' job to guess.

Chris, you've provided the springboard for another post on the topic of recognizing one's talents and interests. Sounds like it should be a slam-dunk but it really isn't.

Thanks so much for your willingness to plug in your personal story in addition to the insights. You gave us a double-dip of learning and reflection today.

Steve Roesler

Hi, Jim,

Yes, didn't Chris add another dimension to the discussion? That's the kind of expanded thinking that makes the best use of this medium.

Back in the early '80s we ran a week-long leadership event for managers of a major pharma organization. Given the lingo of the time, we had a session title "Manager as Mediator of Motivation."

A lot of folks now don't like the implications of the word "motivation" because of its misuse and the lack of explanation regarding its genuine meaning. That's fine. But the principle was exactly the same as what you are raising and what we are discussing in this thread now:

It's the manager's role to understand, assess, and relate to people in ways that bring out the best from task and project assignments. And, if there isn't a match, to find out if there is some other role in the company where the person can really contribute. And if that can't happen, then it's also the manager's role to counsel that person to find a good match elsewhere.

In every instance, as you suggest, the manager is orchestrating events so that the individual is in a place to release work-related passion.

As always, thanks Jim. . .

Jackie Cameron

Hey Steve - your comment "..... people (employees) need to know what it is that they love to do in order to have a legitimate conversation with their boss. It's not the boss' job to guess." is wonderful.
Exactly. In nutshell!!
I mentioned in my comment on the previous post that I coach my clients in their exploration of their passion. When they know that all workplace conversations have the potential to be far more interesting, fruitful and productive.

Steve Roesler

Jackie, that's why I'm betting your clients are satisfied clients: you've got them doing the right things.

Bosses are busy people. Knowing what you want and why--then being able to articulate it--is one more way to take a burden from a busy manager. (It's tough work trying to guess what someone wants).

Chris Bailey

You betcha, Steve. I've been giving this subject a lot of thought lately as I think about my own blogwriting and how I live out my ideas within the context of my work within the corporate world. Man, it's tough sometimes...and it's all good learning in the end.

And Jim, I appreciate your additions to my initial comment. It doesn't conflict at all. It takes an employee willing to share what he or she is most passionate about (which can be scary) and a manager willing to create a free space to figure out how to best tap into that passion. Each one has to trust the other in some ways. And it's like you and Steve mention...the manager ultimately carries the burden for orchestrating the use of each person's strengths and passionate intensity toward the organization's greater good. Else, they're just left with wandering souls trying to not wallow in their own mediocrity.

Good stuff! Thanks for helping me put my finger on some ideas that have been sitting just below the surface for a few weeks. Now, off to do something with this insight :)

Steve Roesler

OK, Chris,

Really glad to know that our give-and-take led to an Aha! No greater satisfaction than that.

Be sure to let us know what happens when you do the application, ok?--that's what it's all about.

Galba Bright of Tune up your EQ

I have a bit of a problem with the idea of "guided passion" I agree that the manager/leader has a responsibility for creating an enabling work environment, one that encourages excellence. When a person has a real passion for their work this is a deeply personal matter. It often causes the passion-driven person to seek autonomy. It's great when passion coincides with the organisation's business objective, but I wonder in a large organisation if that passion can really be "guided." I'll think on this some more.

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