Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Passion or money?

“Take exit 29 off I95 North, turn right on Stratford, travel about a mile and turn left on Freeman, go a block and cross Connecticut Ave into the parking lot. Don’t mind the neighborhood, it looks more intimidating than is actually is. I’m on the 4th floor of the old brick building. I’ll have to come down and get you in the parking lot.”

From the parking lot, we walked up an old staircase, by many art, yoga, music and small business studios. We waited for the freight elevator a moment and decided to walk up the remaining stairs to Debbie’s fourth floor studio operation (Art Bags). It was not the cleanest I’ve ever seen but produced a quality product. The product was not something I totally understood, but one that has raving fans. The building’s tenants each did their own thing and lived special lives.

I have not seen Debbie in fifteen years. She was an aerospace executive colleague with the usual executive tendencies. I recently reconnected with her and visited her Bridgeport, CT studio. It was so refreshing to talk to someone with so much passion and personal fulfillment. Debbie shared that the business she was forging was not the most profitable in the world but brought her more enjoyment and personal satisfaction than any career up to this point.

Driving home that night, I could not help but feel good about Debbie and Art Bags. I also could not help but wonder how business leaders could assist their teammates find such passion in their professions and careers.

How do you help your teams feel Debbie’s passion in their work?


Stephanie Schulze said...

Good question!

First, taking an interest in someone, their goals, passions, interests is one major step. Taking the time to listen - just listen, and hear what the person is saying is another. All too often we are in a rush to get here or there and simply ignore others around us. I often ask people, "How are you doing today? Tell me - what's exciting in your world?" I find that people often respond as if I was the first person ever to ask that question. Humor is priceless!

So, to your question, "How do you help your teams feel Debbie’s passion in their work?"

You care enough to take the time to engage and support the person(s). Let them know that their passions are important and have value added. In turn, the support we give to others often transfers to the next individual(s). Being around passionate people is contagious!


Dick Dunlap said...

Thanks for posting this John. It serves as a great reminder to those of us with new or young staffs.

Michael K said...

Yes, thank you for the posting. It's good as a reminder for us in training, mentoring, educating the "newbies", but also in helping to frame or re-frame ourselves and those so deeply entrenched in "the job" that they've lost their way.

David Engle said...

I definitely agree with Stephanie that you have to show an interest in your employees if you want them to work with passion.

However, the most critical requirement is that you have to work with passion yourself.

If Debbie had an employee, I don't think that employee would have a challenge working with a passion.

Passion is contagious!
This is leadership!

Have a great day!


Anonymous said...

Hello John,
I truly enjoyed your story I too share a common thread with Debbie as an Entrepreneur. Fellow Aerospace engineer (Boeing) and Talent acquisition expert Finding Passion starts with a clear picture of what your organizations value and mission is. When is that last time your staff asked this question to the people in the manufacturing, engineering, finance and HR area What I have seen is that most employees lose focus when their person values are not aligned with the organization. One very important question that should be asked is what do people what? But more important what do people feel!

As an inspirational Speaker, I help people find their passion. What I would recommend is to sit down with your Training department and communicate the issue that concerns you.

Money is never a measure of happiness doing what you love has no price tag.

Abraham Mathai said...

I believe that it is not possible to inject into somebody the same level of passion that Debbie exhibits. This deeply ingrained connect and passion comes from loving what one does, which if you peel another layer would take you to "doing what one loves". Such individuals move away from the following "success" as defined by peer-noms (it could the house in suburbs, the ferrari or whatever other car, the exotic holidays, an exclusive golf club membership etc). If our teammates are in their profession mainly because of these benefits and spoils that the profession offers them, they are already not doing what they love.

Harish Baliga said...

Hi John, I don't think anyone can make anybody else feel passion for their work. If at all they manage then it will be momentary. Passion is something that comes from within. E.g. Governor Schwarzenegger, then just Arnold, said he picked up weights in a gym and had his "WOW" moment. This is it that I want to do forever. He took the chance at that time and the rest is history. But there could have been many more young guys at that time who did the same and are probably no where now.
Taking risk is one of the prime outcome of being passionate about something. You can't actually make two people fall in love. It comes from within. It's about choices we make. There is no guarantee. Most of the things in life are beyond our control.

Chad White said...

Good start. Here is a plan of action for you.
1. Find out what they love. Abraham Mathai was right, that is important and may be missing. For Example; If you have someone that loves negotiating, put them in all the negotiations that you can. If you have someone that loves crunching numbers to dig up the not so obvious, give them digging exercises.
2. Find a way to measure it. The successes can be measured and become personal objectives, not just corporate objectives. Get them personalized.

The struggle will be that ultimately their love and focus on their love may compete with their professional goals in life. The good news is, if you find their love and feed their passion, it will over power the urge to compete with the "Joneses".

Bottom line, with Art Bags, it is personal.

John Haran said...


Without a doubt PASSION. Besides money can't buy you satisfaction of fulfillment in life. Only passion lasts a lifetime and keeps one hungry to do more.

Alex Kersha said...

This is a great post but I think that any leader answering this honestly would have to express some serious concerns about where exactly their peoples' passions lie.

You point out well that Debbie's passion was altogether different from what her "career" was. I think perhaps a better question to ask would be:

How as a leader do you insure that you're hiring people with a passion for the work you already do?

In my opinion, it isn't up to the leaders to ignite the passions of their employees or teammates. That should already exist and as a leader, you merely strive to reinforce those passions as you continue on to your goals.

Alex Kersha

Anonymous said...

Why not both ! We do have two brains, and they function quite well.
You have both, Passion and Money: Just look at your life ! that I really do not know that well, on paper it look pretty good.
Another thing, you can have more than two of anything ? No I am not playing with your mind, just opening it up. Life is beautiful, it's just how you handle it. You are on the right track.

Vishal Pathak said...

Let me start with a hot topic of discussion which is better intelligence or passion. One can calculate both by virtue of their respective quotients.

IQ comes with birth more like a hard-wired DNA replicated intelligence latently places in gray cells. One can't really improve upon, whereas he/she can raise (Passion quotient) PQ threshold and become more creative by making some conscious efforts. These efforts can be created by continuous motivation. I have read somewhere that people with high IQ but low passion and drive have rarely made it to the top. Money, salary and compensation is always hidden which each employee is asked not to share with any. Just think of any Rewards& Recognition (R&R) ceremony, an employee getting even a 5 mg paper with signature by VP / Director adds ample amount of fuel to his / her performance. Having said that I don't demean the money part as well, however passion makes relatively more difference. Cheers :)

Jaana Valimaki said...

Thank you this great posting. As a new MBA student, I think it's important to be passionate about what you do in life, no matter what that is. I hope I someday are engaged in doing things I enjoy for my profession. Isn't that what we all would like?
I believe sharing passion is crucial. Having an examples like Debbie helps others find their way in life finding something they trule enjoy. But it might be hard to teach anyone passion. It has to come within. We can help others being more passionate by engaging ourself with them; listening and taking interest on their lifes; sharing our passions!

George Ochieng said...

Leadership involves bringing out the best in people. They say the money usually follows, almost certainly because there is something about passion and excellence. We all have the responsibility to discover our passion and then to have the courage to pursue it.....this side of life.

michael f said...

"Follow your bliss" in the word of Joseph Campbell. I thing Chad put it best; don't see this as instilling a passion you have into someone but more about helping them find theirs and lining it up with the objectives you are trying to reach. There also has to be a willingness on your part to let the talent go if their passion takes them elsewhere.

Rod Satre said...

to be passionate, you need to be empowered.

Ari Jones said...

In my honest opinion, you can not force a co-worker to feel passion about an objective, project, or industry if they have none in the first place. People work in the fields they do for a variety of reasons and passion tends to fall short of the others. While you can make people more concerned about their objectives, through having say in the decision process, profit sharing, or any number of other common methods throughout the industry; the only way to have people who are passionate in your workplace is to find out what they are passionate about in the first place and try to place them into positions that focus around their passions.

Paul Gooch said...

I urge you to watch:

Brings some science and data to the discussion


Tom Fawls said...

Money without passion is no fun at all. Passion without money is still a rush.

You can't "inject" someone with passion, but you certainly can "infect" them with it.

Like laughter, passion is contagious. Your real, rational and regular enthusiasm and joy in your work, your life, your prayer, your "whatever" will inspire others to want to add that passion into their own lives.

To me, the secret is the "real and rational".parts of the equation. You can't fake passion for long and get away with it. And you can't regularly demonstrate a passion that has no basis in rational reality, either. Both these things will be found out...and once out, can destroy the passion of those around you quicker and more surely than it infected them.

Tom Fawls
The Council For Small Business, Inc

Rande Howell MEd. LPC said...

This is a case where both participants in a relationship called employment have brought to the table the essential ingrediants of powerful growth and development. The employer has created a space where the fundamental glue of relationship -- trust. Out of that environment comes committment of the employee to the future of the employer. Also, Debbie as a seeker of deeper purpose, has found a way of answering a powerful question that all humans have to wrestle with -- what brings purpose and meaning to my life. It is in service to others that human beings find the kind of purpose that creates the kind of joy you speak of in this story. Most employers do not create the kind of employee/employer dance that is discribed in your story. Instead, they focus on the self, rather than serving a purpose greater than the self. Companies who understand the necessity of powerful relationship will build spaces where people like Debbie can spread their wings and learn to fly.

Michele L said...

I've found that if you dont do what you LOVE, then at least do it for money - that way, one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) you will have the financial freedom to do what you love (i.e. passionate about).

Michael Farina said...

"Follow your bliss" in the word of Joseph Campbell. I thing Chad put it best; don't see this as instilling a passion you have into someone but more about helping them find theirs and lining it up with the objectives you are trying to reach. There also has to be a willingness on your part to let the talent go if their passion takes them elsewhere.

Bruce Roselle said...

Great question, John. I think Stephanie's response is a good place to start. Everybody is passionate about something, but it's not always clear in the workplace what that is. One of my clients, Room&Board, asks their Design Associates and other team members, "what are you really passionate about; what do you want to do in our organization?"

In my work as an executive coach to the manager through senior exec level, it is clear that what motivates people does not change much over time, but is an enduring pattern throughout life. The key is to tap into it and nurture it at work. Sometimes, you need to take a step back and help others recognize what they are passionate about, by observing for them the level of energy and enthusiasm you see when they are engaged in X or Y activities. They have difficulty, at times, seeing it in themselves.

The other important factor is to help remove any external obstacles that drain energy. Redundant tasks, ill fitting teaching methods, low feedback or overly critical feedback, too many negative attitudes allowed to flourish, poorly rolled out change initiatives, etc. can suck the passion out of any one at particular points in time.

Having worked in the outplacement field many years ago, I also recognize that sometimes the same "flower" will be stunted and ineffective in one environment, but flourish and experience great success in another one. Often, it has a high correlation with who manages the "flower."


Kenny Ray Morgan said...

John, well done and very good insightful question. Here's briefly a few words that comes to mind; recognition, passionate & work. That said:

"People will work for a living but they'll die for recognition." ~Unknown Author

"If you're in pursuit of your passion, you'll never have to concern yourself with chasing a pension." ~Kenny Ray Morgan

Feyzan Dalay said...

It requires a certain level of mental maturity to make a decision and follow your heart by moving on to what you are passionate about despite potential challenges like making do with less financially.
Leaders' role can be to help their people explore their true passions and once identified help them either excel in what they already have or get ready for the next step. Mentoring is a good avenue for that.

Marie Garrigue said...

I need to second Alex's sentiments, particularly about sourcing the candidates that are passionate about what you do rather than trying to stir passion within them once they're on your team. I want to take it a bit further and point out that there are a few different types of passion that need to be addressed though. There needs to be a passion for the core business (including internal and external customers), a passion for people, and a passion for the functional expertise. Chances are any given person has passion for one of these areas or they wouldn't have stuck around to make it on your team. It is also highly likely that if they're not demonstrating that passion now they had it at one point. So then the question becomes what is their current passion and how do you link that to the others? If someone is highly passionate about a functional area (let's say...logistics) but could care less about the support of the customer or the people within the organization, a lot of damage can be done as that individual passionately seeks to implement best practices in the logistics world without considering the impact to the customer or their peers. So how do we increase passion about people or the customer in that situation? Usually it stems from self-awareness and empathy, but can you lead someone to that?

And in the cases where someone was passionate at one time but for whatever reasons isn't now, can you revive that passion? When is it a good idea to try and salvage that relationship and when should you encourage that person to seek after their passion elsewhere? As leaders this is a critical decision that we must wrestle with frequently. Ultimately, we have to focus on the individual, their KSA's, and help them determine what they want and need from life. If they have passions that are incongruent with their position that can't be reconciled, it is more leader-like to help them see that and give them a sense of permission to find a better match.

Donna Childs said...

I think if given an opportunity, a leader should help those they influence, encourage them to find their passion. Even if it means their leaving your business. What better way to help people grow and achieve all they can be.

Sometimes finding your passion does not come with directions, a person may bump into it, or have an opportunity to experience some small encounter that ignites them. Giving people opportunities to spread their wings, learn new things, and make things better builds better business and a better world.

I know, that sounds altrusitic and simple. It can be. I've done, seen it, encouraged it.

Paul Aiello said...

There are people who hug the tree and there are those that climb out on its limbs and enjoy the fruit. I believe these instints are developed are the youngest of childhood stages. You want passionate employees, take away their salaries, pay a commission/profit share and those that stick around may reach the level of passion your are looking for.

Otto Thav said...

"It's All About Passion" is the title of the conclusion chapter in my recent Non-Fiction "SILVER PARACHUTES" book. And this conclusion is based on about 50 examples gained over 25 years of experience. You can preview inside the book for more details at:

Kiran kumar Reddy said...

Hi John
This is Kiran, a Mechanical Engineer from India, worked for Aircraft engine design ( GE 90 for Boeing 777).
I would like to share few thoughts.
For me, Aircraft itself is a great passion. When I offered Job in Large commercial aircraft engine design GE90 -115B, there was no second thought for me.
My Passion purely
1) My excitement towards aircrafts
2) Peers excitement, when they listen to me about what I do in my Job.
I will also give a try answering the question.
How do you help your teams feel Debbie’s passion in their work?
Teams within my reach, my personal experience thought me
First, leader should be passionate in developing and finding challenges team members.
Second, have likeminded people in the team. This helps developing the relationships and team work.
Finally, Good pay.
Thank you

Curt Farrell said...

I concur that empowerment can be an important factor, but I think passion results from a combination of having specific goals and being in a position where you are in control (empowered) to move towards meeting those goals. If someone believes what they are doing is moving them towards meeting their goals then it is more likely than not they will have passion about what they do. The goals can be personal--like achieving power e.g., becoming a CEO or achieving significant peer recognition. The goal can be winning a competition for new business acquisition. The goal can be turning around a failing enterprise.

I started in aerospace (United Aircraft) in 1963 and have observed each of the examples above. I had a colleague around 1970 who set a goal to become a high ranking officer in Martin Marietta. To meet that goal he became passionate about his work to the point where he lost his family. Obviously they didn't share his goal, but he eventually became CEO of Lockheed Martin. He had some regrets but he swears that if he had it to again he'd follow the same path. And all through his career he kept that passion. After becoming CEO his goal became achieving recognition outside of work which he did.

While this may be a somewhat extreme example, I believe each individual can be passionate about what they do only if they feel it will result in meeting their goals. If their goals are aligned with those of their organization then their passion will be viewed favorably. If however their goals do not align with their organization's or their manager's idea of what should be the goals then their passion and probably they will disappear.

Rod Satre said...

I agree with you, I was trying to be succinct!

Sharon Lindley said...

I look for passion within myself first. I look at my work and relate it to personal interests and passions. Once I am passion about the work, I start talking about it with the links to how this is helping the company, our customers, all stakeholders. I working with the team, I see what sparks their interest and passion and try to relate the work to those areas.

Kenny Ray Morgan said...


Kenny Ray Morgan
"America's Voice of Motivation"

Ashutosh Agrawal said...

Passion is contagious. If you are passionate, then your team members cannot help but feel passionate too.
However this is necessary but not a sufficient condtion. Respect, clear responsibilities and performance systems are also necessary to keep the motivation high.

Debbie said...

This is Debbie of ARt Bags. It is interesting to read everyone's comments; now I will post mine. First, John has been very generous (as usual) in his depiction of my career move. I did not wake up one morning and decide to "do what i love". Over a period of a year, I made the decision to move to a line of work where I would have more flexibility because my husband had been diagnosed with bone cancer and had to go through some very severe treatments (2 stem cell transplants). I needed something where I could care for him when needed, and something that would "feed" me in a way that would keep ME going. I am sure you have heard of those "silver linings" behind every cloud? Well his cancer (and 10 yrs later, he is still going strong) was a sort of silver lining for the direction of my life.

Secondly, I agree with those people who believe that one cannot manage an employee into being passionate about what he/she does. BUT one can nuture enthusiasm. With my employees (and now I have three part time people) I make sure to connect their actions DIRECTLY to our work. (This, of course, is SO much easier ina small business.) If a prospective customer orders because the person who handles the mail has taken the time to send them a catalog with a personal note, I credit her for the order (in front of the others). I have one employee who told me that she liked to make jewelry. When we decided to add jewelry to our line, you can guess that she was the person who took the lead on this project. We both work on design, but she builds the product and each one is unique. Recently she made a piece for herself and wore it to her bartending job. She came back the next week full of smiles (and enthusiasm), saying, "THis is SO COOL!!! Everyone asked me where I got my bracelet!!!"

Finally, and I know this is somewhat controversial, but I think it is a shame that people who work with their hands are not valued (or paid well) in today's workplace. My grandparents were skilled tailors, farmers and dressmakers. Today, most people who work with their hands (as a primary source of income) are overseas. I think some of this thinking is changing, but I really feel that we, as a society and an economy, have to make a place for those people who are "makers" and not necessarily managers.
thanks for the opportunity to connect.

Tom Fawls said...

ADDED afterward:

Tom Fawls
The Council For Small Business, Inc.

Harish Baliga said...


Harish Baliga

Anonymous said...

It is SO true - without an incredible passion for what you are doing, it (business) hardly seems worth it. My small company has neither the prestige nor the profits of a large company, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, because there's nothing more satisfying to me than when a customer is happy, because his/her parts are perfect, consistent, and timely. I vote passion.

Stephen (Steve) Molella said...

Nice article to get us thinking.. I worked for a very large, successful and diverse company for many years and was surrounded by many very passionate supply chain experts -- unfortunately money got in the way and most of the folks were dispersed to reinvent themselves.. Hopefully they still hold that passion..

Mike Mitchell said...

So here's a contrarian point of's unreasonable to expect that we, as leaders, are going to be 100% successful at creating an environment where everyone we are required to lead is passionate about their role. Furthermore, I'm not positive it is even a desirable standard. I've watched plenty of people who are highly successful in their assigned roles, for long periods of time, who have no real passion surrounding what they do or the organization they are doing it for. They are compliant to the culture, rules and expectations of the organization. But their passion in life lies outside of their job. Good for them. After all, they spend only around 25% of their time working. And good for the organization -- these are the steady eddies, the solid rocks of the organization. Suggesting to one of these people that he or she needs to find passion in their work might actually be demotivating.

Alternatively, I think we should focus on stirring the passion of the innovators in the organization, the people Cyndi Laurin and Craig Morningstar label "Rudolphs" in their recent book, "The Rudolph Factor: Finding the Bright Lights that Drive Innovation in Your Business." Their premise is that our job is not to unleash the passion of a particular individual, but to create an environment where these Rudolphs thrive. We do this by eliminating the elements of the culture that drain their passions.

My take? Don't focus on lighting the fire or count on hiring only those that are already on fire. Focus on getting rid of the fire extinguishers so that a little spark has a chance to turn into an inferno.

Owen Ho said...

The key aspect to differentiate a career from a job is that it has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts. Passion is the ability to make a difference and see the end result. It might stretch the person's intellectual limit to an extent but definitely with organizational support.

Alex Kersha said...

Well said. I agree that in an already well-established business, our responsibility is better focused on removing the limitations inhibiting the "sparks". In a new or small business however, hiring the right people to begin with is the only way to get things moving in the right direction.

Alex Kersha

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