Sunday, September 8, 2013

Does Passion Influence Business Performance?

In a 2008 article in the journal of the psychology of sport and exercise the authors were able to conclude from their research that “it appears that there are two paths to high-level performance attainment in sport, depending if harmonious or obsessive passion underlies sport engagement. While the path from harmonious passion is conducive to high levels of performance and living a happy life, that from obsessive passion is less reliably related to performance attainment and is unrelated to happiness.” 
We’ve not only seen passionate sports people achieve incredible things, but can probably remember times in our lives when we were passionate about an activity and the difference that made to our training and performance; compared to those activities that we weren’t that passionate about.
In 2010 John Hagel and John Seely Brown, after some intensive research, were able to highlight two dispositions that are closely linked to passion: questing disposition and connecting disposition. A questing disposition addresses the desire to seek out challenges to test one’s performance and achieve new levels of performance. A connecting disposition focuses on the desire to actively seek out people who share one’s interests and who can be helpful in addressing new challenges. 
Their proprietary survey of the US workforce indicated that employees who are passionate about their work are twice as likely to have a questing disposition and a connecting disposition. For companies hoping to overcome mounting performance pressures having passionate workers with these dispositions would significantly improve their likelihood of succeeding. 
Not everyone starts off their career with a feeling of passion about their job or their company; and some people will go through life never feeling any passion for their job – where it is simply a means to an end. 
There seem to be two things that make us passionate about a job and a company. First it’s our own desire to do something well and a desire to strive for more. If we get the opportunity to meet these criteria in a company then the passion seems to come naturally. Which leads to the second key component to passion and that is leadership. 
Effective leaders create the environment for their staff to find the passion they are looking for in their work and their life. But like the joke about how many psychologists it takes to change a light bulb – only one, but the light bulb has to want to change; the same is true for people – if they don’t have any passion left in them – then the leader might give them the environment to find the passion again – but they simply won’t embrace it, often becoming negative ‘blocks’ for progress and change.
John Hagel and John Seely Brown found that passion levels remain very low within the US workforce where under 25% of the workers are passionate about their work.  And there’s an even bigger problem for large companies. Where they further postulate that the level of passion in the workforce is inversely related to the size of the company - hence the larger the company, the lower the level of passion among the workers.  The most passionate workers are those who are self-employed or working as independent contractors. 
However this is probably taking the generalisation just a bit too far, which is a shame as their work is excellent. There are definitely large corporations out there where you can feel the passion as you walk into their lobby; just as much as there are small ones with no passion whatsoever.  
But where there is passion, there is a feeling of a special kind of energy in the air as people walk about the building with purpose and a smile – you might not know exactly what it is, but you can feel the passion. 
The saddest thing to watch is managers and executives that have lost the passion for work and their organisation. Who go to work for the money and the benefits – but who have lost the ‘passion’ to inspire anymore and who just go about their work day-in day-out, never looking to change, challenge or improve. These people fear change as it challenges the status quo and their utopian environment. What’s even sadder is that these managers and executives often don’t even realise that they’ve part of the organisations problem rather than its solution.
The best organisations have leaders that inspire passion from their employees; as much as they have employees that are passionate about their roles, the organisation and the future.
Valleranda, R.J., Mageauc, G.A., Elliotb, A.J., Dumaisc, A., Demersd, M.A., and Rousseaue, F. (2008). Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Vol 9, Issue 3, p. 373–392.

No comments:

Post a Comment