Yesterday, one of my favorite articles from the satirical website The Onion popped up in my newsfeed. The headline reads: “Find The Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life.”
Like most good humor, it’s funny because of the truth it highlights. Who among us has not labored at a job they didn’t really love? (And been told, “Well, that’s why they call it work!”) The Onion’s headline is repost-it-on-social-media-funny because it’s often true. And this truth should be every business leader’s major concern because inherent in it is a great unlocked advantage.
If we are lucky, we have a career or a vocation (a trade or profession that we are skilled at or trained to do). Sometimes we also have an avocation (something we enjoy and do as a hobby). When we are very fortunate (or perhaps very intentional) our avocation and vocation can be one in the same.
We know that when people are passionate about their work they are happier, more productive and more likely to contribute discretionary effort. And for businesses the passion often leads to success. But what are the conditions that invite passion and allow it to flourish?
I believe there are two important elements that must be present:
Purpose – Why am I here? Why should I care? Studies show that 81 percent of employees consider the social responsibility of businesses before deciding where to work. Studies have also shown that when employees felt they were working toward a good cause, their productivity increased up to 30 percent. If you can clearly and compellingly communicate your company’s purpose and hire those who believe your pursuit to be meaningful, you are that much closer to better results. With purpose as your guide, you stop recruiting to fill jobs and start seeking those with matching vocations.
Strength – Just aligning with a purpose is not enough. Jack Nicklaus said it best: “I am a firm believer in the theory that people only do their best at things they enjoy. It is difficult to excel at something you don’t enjoy.” And difficult to enjoy something you don’t excel at … or at least show some promise for. Gallup’s research shows that people who have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and are more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life. Teams that focus on their strengths are 12.5 percent more productive. Taking the time to understand and focus on the individual strengths of your employees will put you (and them) in a better position to leverage them in the pursuit of your purpose.
The somewhat archaic definition of a vocation was that function or station in life to which you were called by God. Something bigger than you, and more important and worthy of sacrifice. We all know in our personal lives that those things we are most passionate about – our loved ones, our causes, our communities – are the things we go out of our way to protect and advance. By seeking those in business who seek to achieve the same purpose and leveraging their strengths in the pursuit of it, you create the conditions necessary for this passion to create results.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”- Steve Jobs
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Haley Boehning is a principal at Storyforge. Building on 20+ years driving change and creating alignment for Fortune 500 clients, non-profits and start-ups, Haley has developed a pragmatic approach to change through storytelling, developing relevant, consistent and emotionally compelling messages and targeted communications strategies that help brand and culture triumph in times of great change.