High Performance by Design

Question of passion

Can business and passion coexist?

In many instances, your passion is great until you're part of the team, then you've got to tone it down. It is not only corporate executives who are ambivalent around passion, it seems that people who get things done are not very passionate at all; they're more process-oriented.

Are the two mutually exclusive?

Especially in large organizations the day to day practices and processes seek to contain and mute the very passion executives so eloquently celebrate.

Do a search, and you'll find two common kinds of popular definitions of passion: sacrifice and lust. Some of the words associated with passion in business are pursuit, progression, pull, connection, discipline, and authenticity. This is an interesting grouping for sure.

The idea of passion is increasingly talked about as important to our personal success. Find your passion and you will succeed, say many. Yet passion often leads us astray. Is it possible to harness its magic without yielding to its unpredictability?

I'm most interested in the performance side of passion, and that is what we elicit when we deliver on a promise.

While it is true that when emotion is engaged it leads us to action (from Lat. emotion ex = out + motio = movement), building a business or a practice inside an established company demands engagement with operational duties, practice, hours of dedication, relationship building skills, and a number of other things. Some of which we may not particularly like. 

A play, a symphony, any number of artistic pursuits require many hours and often years of training and preparation. Sweat equity that goes into delivering an impeccable execution that (hopefully) results in a moving experience — or rather opens the door for the people in attendance to infuse their own experience into it.

We see the results, not all the work that went into it. On one hand appreciating the mastery of others brings us delight. On the other it may either lull us into the illusion that what looks simple is easy to do, or intimidate us.

The new world of work is still unevenly distributed between corporate competition for individual high points, market pressures, and co-opetition along with collaboration in progressive outposts. We must balance execution and stretch goals in environments where there is often little slack for thinking, and learning.

Some ideas to increase curiosity and enthusiasm for continuous development:

High performance by design

(1.) Start with you — forget comparing your insides to someone else's outsides. Even when you are figuring out what you want and what you need, take a step and start something. Develop confidence by delivering on your promises.

(2.) Keep at it –- don’t let things you don’t know or don’t understand get in the way: learn them, join them. "But each time I seemed to be climbing into a roller coaster and finding myself coming through the downhill run with that sort of dazed feeling that we all know." [Enzo Ferrari]

(3.) Listen with one ear and forget with the other — you are in the driver seat, you decide what makes sense keeping. This is very hard to do.

(4.) Stay soft on the people, including yourself –- even when you will need to be hard on the issues. On your way anywhere, you will meet mates and you’ll meet the other kind. To some people you’ll be but a blip on their radar, to some you’ll be a source of great inspiration. Know the difference, you are accountable for it. Don’t keep score, it bogs you down.

(5.) Develop stamina –- think of yourself as a marathon runner. Don’t look at the time, build on the distance. "Aerodynamics are for people who can't build engines." [Enzo Ferrari]

(6.) Take risks -– in fact, the very definition of value creation includes creating risk. Invest in yourself, build capacity and experience by exploring opportunities and doing the work. When you go for safety, you shop at that price. "As bend followed bend, I discovered his secret. Nuvolari entered the bend somewhat earlier than my driver's instinct would have told me to." [Enzo Ferrari]

(7.) Design your context –- chisel away all the marble and what you have is the masterpiece. Edit down as appropriate, sculpt your experience: you decide.

(8.) Have a “to be” list – be interested, curious, adaptable, and open to new ideas, including yours. Many call this attitude, I call it spirit (Lat. spiritus = breath).

(9.) Deliver an experience — and learn from it so what you learn can be something new every time. In business you often have no dress rehearsal, it’s the real deal. Go at it with gusto and panache. The verb perform is built into performance.

(10.) Build momentum — this is very important. Whenever things start clicking, don't take your foot off the accelerator, keep going.


[edited from archives]

[image of question of passion by Emily's mind]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.