I worked all my life and never really understood the passion thing until later on.

I had great jobs, I did great work, but I was not passionate. I started out in sales for IBM and held numerous sales positions until I kind of morphed into HR.

I eventually left sales and took a part-time job as a computer trainer. What I learned about myself that I was pretty good at this and I really enjoyed it. By this time I was back at IBM and the powers that be decided I could bring more value to the organization in another role. That role enabled me to work from the client’s site to solve their training needs.

The level of enjoyment I found was gradually rising. My next move was to design training systems and solutions, and on top of that, I was able to work from home full time. By now, I was hooked.

I had found my calling.

What a pine cone taught me about passion

My next step was at Martha Stewart Living. This was a primer as to what passion was about. This was where I became the student and the organization became the teacher.

I was impressed when I would see designers in such an intense focus which I had never experienced to this point, trying to tweak a product that they just were not satisfied with.

On the day of orientation, we were given a tour of the magnificent offices that really gave you the WOW factor. We passed a large conference room where about 10 people were sitting around on the floor, looking at pine cones. Yes, that’s right — pine cones. They would turn them over, choose another, and do the same, looking at it from all angles.

I surely did not get it and asked the HR person, “What are they doing”? Her response was that they are probably looking for pine cones for a photo shoot. My reply was they have a bag full, just choose one. Her comeback was, “we want the perfect one or as close to perfect as possible.”

For a quick moment, I thought that just maybe I had made the wrong decision. When I eventually saw that photo, I now understood what the HR person meant.

Why I’m passionate about HR

Passion is described as an ardent love or strong affection for an object, concept, etc.

We all come across people every day that just love what they do. They have found their calling and they enjoy every aspect of it. As my father would say, you have to live, breathe and sleep it.

I thought of all that this week when I appeared on Thursday’s “HR Happy Hour” radio show with the great host Steve Boese. John Hollon and I were guest talking about the upcoming HR Transform conference in February. I saw a tweet that said:# passionate @Ronald_thomas.

When I read that the next day, I thought that yes, I am extremely passionate about HR. To clarify, my passion is about how HR that plays a strategic role within the organization. It’s about the HR role that partners with marketing, finance, IT, bringing HR’s human capital expertise to bear. It’s the same as the other disciplines and how their expertise is valued and brought to bear. THAT is the HR that I live, eat and breathe.

I work sometimes on weekends and into the night reading, preparing, and just studying the field. I want to know what every key thought leader in this space is thinking.

My reading list surpasses any college assignments, and my quest for excellence does not stop at 5 pm. Sometimes I am so anxious to get the day rolling, that I just get up at 4 am, read a little and then get to the gym by 5. I’m ready each and every day to get it on.

In order for organizations to get back on track, passion is a key competency that must be looked at.

How you can describe if you have passion

I heard a story a while back about a man who approaches three laborers breaking and shaping rocks. The man asks the first laborer what he is doing. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m breaking rocks,” the laborer replies. The man asks the second laborer what he is doing and he responds that he is building a wall. The man then asks the third laborer what he is doing and the laborer responds, “I’m building a cathedral.”

Here are a few of the touch points that I look at to describe passion:

People that are passionate about their work will answer in the affirmative in most of these. Yes we are a special breed and we love every minute of it.

So if you are in HR and you do not get the questions above, it may be time to move on. HR is being transformed.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I look forward to meeting everyone at Transform HR in Austin, Texas (USA) this coming February. If you are passionate about the transformation of HR you will be there (smile).