Recently, I wrote about the link between companies with a clear and meaningful mission and sustainable success. Today, I want to briefly talk about the related concept of passion. By passion, I am referring to the dictionary definition--“a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something”--and both to a firm’s passion as well as to that of its individual employees. If a team has a solid, shared mission but not the individual and collective passion to execute on that mission, they are likely to be no better off than a rival with a nebulous mission but an abundance of passion. If this is seemingly so straightforward, why isn’t passion pervasive across all organizations? My experience in and with both highly passionate organizations and those less so is that the likeliest predictors of passion fall in three key areas:
Hiring—Are you hiring people passionate about doing the things your company needs to do to be successful?
Communication—Does what you say and do—particularly among your leadership—match what you want the company to be passionate about consistently?
Focus—Does your day-to-day work match your mission?
The first two areas are topics best left to separate discussions as turning around shortcomings in those areas can be much more complex, timely, and costly than addressing focus concerns. It is simply a fact of life that there are going to be tasks that we all must do in our day to day working lives that we have little to no passion for and that are disconnected from the core mission and/or passion of our companies. One of the best arguments for specialization as a company grows is to allow employees to spend their time focusing on areas of higher competence and motivation. Coders are often less comfortable in front of external customers just as salespeople may be less competent when it comes to the finer technical specifications of a product.
When resources do not allow for a level of specialization that permits employees to focus where they are passionate (and demonstrably competent), the odds increase of a drag on the company’s growth. For instance, if the engineering team has developed the most exquisite new product but there is nobody passionate about getting that product into the hands of the right customers, failure is a predictable outcome. The nature of startups and smaller firms is that they often choose to focus resources on the passion of the CEO or product developers and assume that passion will carry through to sales. That is often a dangerous assumption. Diverting your product team from their focus, their passion, leaves both your product and your sales vulnerable. Hiring full time sales people might not make sense with current resources. So, rather than diverting employees who are competent and passionate in a particular area to activities where they are less passionate and/or competent or stretching your resources by bringing on new team members, why not explore as needed help in the form of a consultant who fits the requisite qualities for your organization? Simply put, can your company benefit from staying focused 100% on their core passion and mission by outsourcing certain necessary job functions in the short term?