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Jim Stroup


I agree that the concept of "passion" as it is so often presented to us by gurus is misguided. At the same time, I understand the felt need to try to take on employees who are capable of developing a productive attachment to their work.

My concern is that the notion that such a personal tendency or ability can be directed to, or will naturally direct itself to, the work someone is assigned or the larger enterprise one hires into is problematic. On the one hand, it isn't likely to play out that way and, on the other, if it does, you may actually have a problem you hadn't anticipated.

Passion for work is generated by the value of that work - not by a mindless "passion" gene or character trait. As a result, the responsibility for generating passion should be placed back where it belongs - on managers, or even on directors and owners, not employees.

Indeed, if you do find employees who tend to want to generate passion about what they do, and fail to give them justification for that in the work you assign them, then your use of it as a hiring criteria may have backfired on you on a second level.

Joe Raasch

Hi Steve,

Great topic! Passion - this is a significant part of the intangible of great teams. As you point out, it doesn't need to be unbridled enthusiasm. Still waters run deep and all that.

In interviews, I try to gauge the candidate's body language and talk speed. When we hit on a specific job or project from their resume, one can usually discern enthusiasm, or a lack of.

Another way is to see if they comment on anything in your office. Most 'people' people will. If they say, "Hey, you have a dog!" and I do. They say, "good for you." Not as passionate. If they say, "I have one too...." and tell a quick story, they may have that 'heart' you mention.

A lengthy but useful way is to try to apply the principles from the book Topgrading as well.

peter vajda

Hi, Steve,

Passion, for me, is a spiritual concept, i.e, it comes from the heart. Passion is not a "logical", mind-driven quality. It's a quality of the soul. One doesn't "figure out" passion, or "decide" to be passionate. It comes from a deeper engagement that is heart-driven (e.g., "His heart is in it." "She's only half-hearted in her efforts.")

The question(s) that point(s) to passion (is) are those such as: "Tell me a time you were doing something in which you felt you were 'on top of the world'."....where time stood still or you lost all track of time, where you felt, "It doesn't get any better than this." ...Where you felt (not thought about) a great sense of adventure and excitement"....the "felt " piece is important as passion is a "felt-sense", not a mental thing.

Another question might be, "Did/do you ever feel this way at work?" Or, "...If not why not?" (for me a $10 dollar question that gets to the "heart" of the "passion" factor vis-a-vis the workplace (obstacles). And, what do you feel it would take for you to feel "passionate" and deeply energetic (and not from "energy drinks"....) at work?" (possibilities/visions/action plans/engagement). What price are you/have you been paying at work for not pursuing your passion? (e.g., stress, burnout, rust-out, absenteeism, presenteeism, poor health, physical symptoms, spiritual or emotional un-ease, gossiping?

The "secret sauce" to engendering engagement is creating emotional connections between an organization and its people, that points to passion as a catalyst for increased productivity and performance and more productive, more honest and more trusting personal and professional relationships. There is a direct correlation, for me, between passion and profit.

I'm not sure passion from "the outisde" bubbles over to the inside (at work) but, for me, it's more skin to an alchemical reaction that bubbles up from engaging in activities to which one has a heart connection, from doing what one loves in some way, shape or form.

In an interview one can experience this energy, this passion, in one's verbal and non-verbal responses, in one's eyes, facial expressions, mannerisms, one's energy, even in one's silence.

As an aside, it may also be useful to discern whether the interviewer is passionate about his/her task (over an above looking for it in another). Hmmm.

Steve Roesler

Hello, Jim,

Yep, I'll buy that. Well put.

While I"m not a rah-rah kind of guy, I am still trying to find a way to legitimately link one's passion/purpose with one's work.

As you point out, it could well backfire for the reasons you mention.

I'm trying to think this through a bit deeper and get it to a workable level. On the one hand, it's not a bad idea to know what lights somebody's fire at the outset. On the other hand, it's not the obligation of the employer to stoke a fire that isn't lit on behalf of the company's performance needs.

This is a good discussion that I don't want to leave alone. Am waiting to go into a Board meeting and doing a little stream-of-consciousness waiting for the meeting to start--will think on this some more and continue the response.

Thanks, Jim...

Karin H.

Hi Steve

Risking to sound like a broke record, but item 2 is close to my heart: find your strength and work towards your strength, then no matter what your passionate 'hobby' is you will start to see ways and methods to bring that into your work field (or change your work field for that matter - but that's a different story ;-))

Also, would like to link (again) to my good friend and mentor bizRichard

No business growth (or personal growth) without passion. Loose your passion and you loose your growth (or success). It is absolutely true, not just in business life.

Karin H.

Phil Gerbyshak

Steve - Great additions to my thoughts on passion. I think being able to make the leap from passion to how to engage it in business is a great question, and your question gets to the heart of that. I manage level 1 folks, so the fact that they are passionate about ANYTHING helps a lot. Were I hiring for something with more specialization, your question would help me unleash the potential inside them even more!

Well done, and great insights from your commenters too. Wow!

Jackie Cameron

Hey Steve- here in Scotland there is some reticence in using the P word but just as Joe pointed out if you have passion it kind of leaks out given the opportunity. I coach people in preparation for interviews and we disuss what it is they want the prospective employer to know about them ( not their skills or work experience which has already been covered on the resume). In this exercise they can identify what they are passionate about in relation to the job, play around with that in their heads for a while, and then hopefully bring it into the interview to press the right buttons for the recruiter. Rather than being off-putting ( you need to spend some time with cautious Scots to know how that looks) it has worked really well - or so my clients tell me as they don't take me with them!
I loved this post.

Steve Roesler

Hello, Joe,

You wove in what I think is an important practical point in interviewing when you said: "When we hit on a specific job or project from their resume, one can usually discern enthusiasm, or a lack of."

There are implications for those who interview or who are being selected as interviewers. That is, that they will have a sense of awareness as well as discernment--and be purposeful about it.

I wonder how often organizations themselves are purposeful about selecting and training (where possible) the kinds of people who exercise that kind of emotional intelligence?

Steve Roesler

Karin, I honestly don't think you can say that enough.

One of the fascinating things about the human condition is that, while we may be exposed to something and even acknowledge its validity, that doesn't mean that we've taken time to build it into our lives.

Repetition--as all advertisers know--is a key ingredient in winning hearts and customers.

So it is with helping people use the concepts that will help them be more effective.

Thanks as always...

Steve Roesler

Hey, Phil,

OK, the Level 1 thing gives additional context to your post.

Let's face it--regardless of where we are in an organization, who wants to spend extended periods of time around someone who is flatlining all day?!

Honestly, I need a break every so often and would be happy to look at somebody's stamp collection if that's what turns the energy up for a few minutes!

See ya soon...

Steve Roesler


I think maybe you touched on the place to which Jim Stroup was referring when you said: "The "secret sauce" to engendering engagement is creating emotional connections between an organization and its people. . ." (That's one of the reasons I love blogging--greater minds take over the process and the outcome offers new levels of thought).

For years, teaching "motivation" was a big deal in management. The problem with that is that you can't motivate people over the long run. The real job of the manager is to create situations that engage people in ways that allow them to become passionate about a task or project. That means that managers need to know the skills, interests, and inclinations of their folks. Which then, of course, leads to the fact that managers need to have enough of a relationship with each of their people to genuinely understand them.

Thanks, Peter, for bringing what was fuzzy into focus.

Steve Roesler


Gee, I think I recall recently that some of the Scots were having difficulty with the "H" word as well :-)

You have done something very simple, yet profound, for your client. You've forced a clear delineation between skills (pretty easy to talk about) to characteristics that help define the kind of person they want.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: People don't usually lose their jobs because of lack of technical ability. It's because of "who" they turn out to be or "how" they operate on the job.

Thanks a lot for that one, Jackie...

Jamey Lucas

Great post, will be joining your RSS feed.

Steve Roesler

Thanks, Jamey, much appreciated.

Hope you have time to weigh in and expand the discussions.


Hi Steve,

It's funny how I found your blog and how significant it is to what I do in my job. My duty as a person promoting Innovative Culture in my company, has gone through many challenges and one of them is that people are resistant to change and they are unhappy.

One thing I realised is that, what makes them happy... and I couldnt find the right word, to associate happiness and the workplace. And I found it here. IT's PASSION! Passion is what drives me to do my job.

There has been a lot of survey gauging the people's commitment and climate checks on culture. But somehow even with extensive action plans, it never seems to gain any traction.

Then I tried something different and held focus group to ask people what makes them tick! (now I know that what I wanted to find out was their passion!). And I got rave reviews for my focus groups, and I managed to change certain mindsets about what I do.

There's still a long road ahead for me and believe me, there were many a times where I did feel that I'm getting nowhere with my job. But my passion to want to promote Innovative Culture is strong.

Thanks Steve.... will definitely join your RSS feed.

Steve Roesler

Aida, you've made my day!

Anytime that a colleague stops by and has an "Aha!"--well, that's what I'm passionate about.

It sounds as if you are gifted at intuiting what might really touch people in the midst of an initiative that isn't working. (Have been there many times).

People don't want to fill out surveys; they want to talk about what's on their minds and in their hearts, and they want someone to genuinely listen.

Your question, "What makes you tick," certainly turned out to be just as useful as the word "passion". It was getting at the same thing, and that's what people really wanted to express.

BTW: I've been doing this kind of work for a bit more than 30 years. If a client insists on some kind of written survey (for measurement or tracking purposes), I won't do it unless it is quickly followed up with small focus groups. That's where we discover the "why?" behind the "what"--and that's what's important.

Congratulations, Aida. And sincere thanks for subscribing. I'm looking forward to future conversations. . .

Galba Bright of Tune up your EQ

An interesting discussion. I tend to agree with Peter Vajda that passion is an individual, spiritual affair. The questions that Peter poses are examples of good behavioural interview questions. They may well get interviewees to share their deeper feelings. This will provide the interviewer with useful information. Training in behavioural interviewing will help interviewers to make better judgments. Yet as you imply, it may be difficult to "train" people to be more discerning. Perhaps interviewers should be encouraged to read Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" and learn to become more comfortable relying on intuitive judgments.

Steve Roesler

You bring up a very meaningful area of discussion here, Galba: the notion of becoming more comfortable relying on one's intuitive judgments.

Over the years, I've observed that Jung's dichotomy of Intuition and Sensing as ways to gather data have usually held true. That is, people have an innate preference for one or the other from birth; they learn to rely on--and use--the one preference much more than the other. But here is the key point from my own practice: I've watched sensing (factual, concrete, detail-oriented) folks intellectually understand the intuitive side and what it means; but when faced with something new, they will NOT follow their gut UNTIL they've gathered reams of concrete data that give them--in black and white--"verifiable" data that they can hold in their hands.

Obviously, there are many situations where that is highly desirable and much-needed. However, I've not ever...ever...seen someone with a very clear, innate preference for the "concrete" become trusting of their "intuition" in meaningful situations, regardless of education, training, coaching, or cajoling.

It's not who they are or how they are wired to contribute.

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