Next time you interview a job candidate or consider who on your team gets a new assignment, look for signs of passion for the work. Without it, no amount of talent will yield great performance.
Employees with passion — what psychologists call intrinsic motivation — are driven by interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and a sense of personal challenge in the work they are doing. They are also more creative.
Imagine a task you have to do — say, an important marketing problem you have to solve at work — as a maze you need to get through. Most business problems have multiple solutions that would work, multiple exits from that maze. Often, there is one clear, straight path out of the maze — the standard solution that everyone uses for this type of problem. If you’re extrinsically motivated, perhaps by a looming deadline or fear of a negative evaluation, you’re likely to take that safe path. The solution works, but it’s boring; it doesn’t move things forward. But if you’re intrinsically motivated, you love the hunt through the maze for a more interesting — and likely more creative — solution.
As a manager, you can leverage the link between passion and creativity by following three guidelines:
First, hire for passion as much as for talent. If you don’t look for passion in the people you hire, you could end up with employees who never engage deeply enough to dazzle you with their creative productivity.
Second, nourish that passion. Unfortunately, standard management approaches often (unwittingly) end up dousing passion and killing creativity. But keeping it alive isn’t rocket science. We have found that the single most important thing you can do to fuel intrinsic motivation is to support people’s progress in the work that they are so passionate about. This is the progress principle, and it applies even to the seemingly minor” small wins that can lead to great breakthroughs.
Finally, look to yourself. If you don’t have passion for your own work, you’ll end up disappointing both yourself and those who count on you. And you’re unlikely to develop your own best talents. Ask yourself: Am I liberated and empowered by passion in my work? Are the people around me?