Have you ever encountered a leader that had so much passion for the business that they lacked compassion for their people? Management expecting employees to bust through the door on day one willing to die for the organization? Seen execs that frowned upon employees for not happily and voluntarily putting in 60+ hours a week and weekends? Had tenured co-workers look at you funny for not jumping up and down excited during staff meetings? Ever had your calm demeanor mistaken for being nonchalant and lacking passion?
I think that we all have at some point. And I believe that those at the receiving end of those types of expectations know that employees have to grow into that level of passion for a company. And in order to justify the sacrifices, they have to feel and see the Return On Investment (ROI) for their efforts. Dangling carrots disguised as promotion and advancement no longer cut it. Employees, just like employers, are seeking ROI to determine if the relationship will be beneficial sooner rather than later…and that ROI will create the passion they’re looking for.
True passion is built through demonstrated trust, respect and flexibility. It is created by ensuring resources, access and reward. While it is very beneficial to have employees that share the same level of commitment and excitement as management, leaders have to be heavily involved by teaching and developing employees to get there. Leaders and peers have to be a part of getting new and old employees to that level of excitement, not by forcing one’s own passion down their throats, but by acclimating them and demonstrating why it’s worth the long hours. Why its worth missing a child’s field day at school. Why its worth calling a spouse and saying I’ll be home later…we’ll have to change our plans. Not just expecting it because “that’s what leaders do.”
When one’s passion is forced on employees, it creates a disdain and disengagement because they are more concerned about how they are being perceived rather than how much they’re producing. People stop idolizing the work ethic of leaders and start looking at them like they’re crazy. They stop admiring the sacrifices made to start and grow a business, and began to wonder if they’ve joined a cult.
So don’t give employees 150% of that over-the-top passion right off the bat. Don’t floor it; go 0 to 150 gradually so the engine doesn’t get worn out too soon. They’re not ready for all of that at once, nor will that inspire them to do their best, giving you the return that you want. Show enough of it that they’re not weirded out by you. Show enough to give glimpses of something to look forward to. Show enough to encourage fighting through communication failures and confusion. Show enough to keep them from watching the clock and wanting to rush through life to the weekend. Give it in stages so that employees want to buy in to the organizational philosophy and not feel as if drinking the Kool-Aid is the only way to get management approval. Just be real, and in turn you’ll get employees that will grow into being passionate about your company and not just those that act like it to impress the brass.