Friday, 6 April 2012

Passion @ Work… “TGIM”

Martin Luther King Jr. once said "If a man is called to be a street-sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street-sweeper who did his job well.'"

How many of us jump out of bed on a Monday morning and actually say, “TGIM” (Thank God It’s Monday)!? Or are you a “TGIF” (Thank God it's Friday) kind of person who can't wait to get away from the job for the weekend? If you are a TGIF person you are missing out on something really important in your work life – ‘PASSION”.

Unfortunately, many people don't enjoy their work. What's worse is that they have no expectation that they should. Work is often seen as the ‘means to an end’…just a process which helps to pay your bills. However, being passionate about your job is more than the old adage "Do what you love". It's about looking forward to going to work. It's about time flying by when you're at the workplace. It's working past quitting time, not because you're swamped with work or couldn’t manage multi-tasking projects within deadlines, but because you were so intent on the project at hand that you didn't notice the time fly by.

The trick is not just to feel passionately about your job, but to act passionately too. If you act passionately, you won't sit passively through another dreary meeting but actually share your passion and enthusiasm with the others at the meeting. Your energy can be infectious and lift all of them. People are drawn to passionate co-workers because, deep down, people want to be passionate about something. They sense that you can help them improve their lives, and they will respect you for your conviction. When your audience senses your passion and sincerity for the project espoused, they will jump on board emotionally.

Passion is also very contagious. When you transfer your passion, the people around you start to absorb your energy. They begin to perform better. Being on the job no longer seems like work. They become more proactive, more willing to work as a team, and more optimistic. When you’ve tapped into your passion, you become more determined, and that determination strengthens your resolve to deliver against all odds.

Passionate employees are incredible innovators. This arises out of being so involved with your work that once you have identified your goal, you will be prepared to try different, novel approaches. If the tried and tested approach doesn’t work, you would think out-of-the-box to invent a new one. Such people are more goal oriented than technique oriented. The method of choice is the method which work’s best, not necessarily the typical method. If the common sense approach does not work, you will invent a new one. By adapting and modifying whatever is at hand to solve the problem you can ultimately achieve the objective. Such employees also sharpen their knowledge and skill sets and constantly keep themselves abreast of the latest developments in the industry and the markets around them.

Passionate people are also highly self driven and remain consistent at their job. You don’t go searching for external sources for motivation, and neither do you indulge in ‘buck passing’. You would tend to persist in the face of adversity and wouldn’t be easily discouraged by failure. The underlined self-confidence helps you to carry on despite setbacks and you would use failure as a learning experience. Even when a situation turns bad, your passion will ensure that you continue to work with the same vigor, or maybe more. The work and the challenges therein serve as a source of enjoyment to you.

People with passion demonstrate high levels of interpersonal competence and believe in the power of long term relationships. You instantaneously recognize the importance of interpersonal relationships in achieving most objectives, therefore you would devote reasonable time and effort towards developing and maintaining good relationships with others. Logical and task-oriented, passionate employees are prone to electing experts as work colleagues.

However, too often, passion for work can veer too far into workaholic tendencies, especially in today’s day and age of 24X7 mobile connect. There’s a fine line here that distinguishes ‘harmonious’ passion vis-a-vis ‘obsessive’ passion. Those with harmonious passion engage in their work because it brings them intrinsic joy. There’s a sense of control of their work, and their work is in harmony with all the other activities in their life. But those with obsessive passion perceive their work as representing a passion for them, and view their work as highly valued. A major difference is that they have an uncontrollable urge to engage in their work around the clock. As a result, they report feeling a sense of loss and more conflict between their passion and the other activities in their life.

A few tips to help shift your passion from ‘obsessive’ to ‘harmonious’ include effective delegation, taking a vacation or at least ensuring that you wean yourself away from work post office hours and during weekends, and above all, having a friend or family member regularly remind you to put your cell phone away and “smell the roses”. The key is to shift your obsessive work time into fun activities that you enjoy to help bring a work-life balance. There are surgeons whose passion at work increases because they indulge in creative pursuits such as painting or playing the violin after work, there are CEOs whose passion at work increases because they play a round of tennis post work hours, and there are lawyers who start enjoying work after a vacation in the distant mountains. At first, these activities may need to be fun and really atypical enough to really distract you from your obsession with work, but eventually, you should be able to shift into a more ‘harmonious’ balance.

True ‘harmonious’ passion radiates and captivates and does not need to be forced. When your peers feel forced or unrealistic hype on your part, they will be repelled. You will be seen as fake, and that perception will decrease your ability to influence. Make sure you are radiating true passion, not false enthusiasm or hype. Once you tap into your true passion, you will have the ability and strength to motivate and influence others to carry forward the vision and achieve the goals set.

As E. M. Forster aptly summed up “One person with passion is better than 40 people merely interested.”