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Top talent at full throttle. By Anthony Landale


Full throttle
Do you or your team have any passion for your work? HR Zone member Anthony Landale reports on an issue that is rising up the leadership agenda and suggests that leaders must find the missing spark to ensure employee engagement.

How much energy do you hold in reserve? Apparently most people feel capable of improving their performance by at least 30 percent and some feel that, given the right circumstances, they could even double their impact. So why the reticence?

The answer to this appears to be to do with how much people care about what they are doing and how engaged they are at work. And a spate of surveys by organisations such as Gallup, Towers Perrin, Blessing White and the Corporate Leadership Council back this up.

“That leaves the vast majority of people at work showing up every day feeling demoralized or disenchanted. And this presents both a massive challenge and a huge opportunity to HR professionals.”

According to the research, high levels of employee engagement correlates directly to individual, group and corporate performance. In other words, when people are engaged they deliver better results and vice versa.

Now while this might not be especially surprising, what should be of more concern to organisations is the finding that only 19 per cent of us feel engaged at work (Gallup).

That leaves the vast majority of people at work showing up every day feeling demoralized or disenchanted. And this presents both a massive challenge and a huge opportunity to HR professionals, business leaders and, of course, individual employees themselves.

Meaning inspires results

One management writer who has done much to get people thinking about their personal performance in this respect is Stephen Covey. Famous for ‘the seven habits of highly effective people’ Covey suggests that when work has meaning it inspires us to deliver extraordinary results. So here is a classic win/win for both employees and employers.

Mirroring this thinking, a new development programme in the UK called PassionWorksTM shows exactly what individuals and teams can do to get more engaged. In essence, this programme helps people to identify exactly what it is that inspires them.

And this doesn’t have to be some grand scheme or cause. For some people meaningful work will arise out of what they are doing and what interests them. For others it will come from the service they are delivering or even from the colleagues with whom they are working. In this respect meaning comes from what you, as an individual, are invested in.

But meaning isn’t sufficient on its own. In fact unless action and progress is harnessed to whatever the individual finds meaningful then the dream can quickly become sour and the people cynical or listless. So once people have clarified their sense of meaning, what PassionWorksTM then helps them do is determine what steps they need to take that will give them a sense of progress toward their goal.

Passion at work

As Clive Lewis, MD of illumine and the main provider of the PassionWorksTM programme in the UK, explains: “People with passion will leave a job that doesn’t allow them to make the kind of contribution that they know they want to make. So what leaders have to do is emphasise both the importance of passion at work and also establish the kind of challenging and creative environment that enables people to realise it.

“Passionate and talented people want to make a difference, they want to make an impact on things that matter to them and their ability to work in a purposeful manner is at the core of their self-identity,” he continues. “Neither meaning nor progress are enough on their own, they need to be harnessed together – that is when you get passion flow.”

The proposition is compelling. Get people in touch with what they care about and help them see what they can do to achieve their dreams and you are certain to get more committed and motivated workers. No wonder businesses are interested.

But if you, as an individual leader, want to find your passion what should you do? Here are the initial steps:

  • Start thinking about what you care about. Ask yourself what matters to you and get clear about your vision.

  • Consider how you would feel working for an organisation that actively promoted passion in its culture.

  • Start considering what sort of difference the above would make to your performance, to your relationships, to your energy.

  • With your vision in mind, identify and start clarifying what would feel like progress. What actions would you have to take and how could you create momentum for yourself and others?

Working on your own of course might help you to get in touch with your missing spark but what would happen if a whole team or organisation got in touch with its passion? That would be extraordinarily powerful. Indeed you would probably be looking at organisational transformation.

For more information about illumine, please call 01753 866633 or visit:

Case study, by Clive Lewis, MD, illumine:
“It’s not uncommon for people to hesitate when asked what’s meaningful for them in their work. One senior manager told us that he just didn’t know. However this same manager was also thinking about turning down a promotion because he didn’t know whether it was the right move or not. It took a number of conversations but finally he realised that he got motivated when taking dysfunctional teams and turning them into high-performers.

On assessing the promotion within this context, he realised the team he’d be taking over in the new job was completely dysfunctional. It was the perfect fit and so he quickly said yes.

This manager then went on to use the skills and techniques from the PassionworksTM programme to help his team. Instilling motivation and commitment in the team not only helped team members develop a sense of purpose which flowed through into positive results – it further underlined for the manager the sense that he was making a meaningful difference.”

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