Look for passion first

Look for passion first

Trying to ignite passion in people who don’t have it is like getting a child to eat his vegetables by yelling “It’s good for you, dammit.”  You get tired and the vegetables only get eaten when you’re micro-managing chews.

More effective to hire for passion first

Similarly, in a work environment, managers feel just as frustrated with their workplace equivalents of “eat your vegetables’ e.g. “delight our customers,” “take the initiative,” “think out of the box,” “deliver on your commitments,” or even “Be on time, dammit!”

They don’t have their intended effect—at least not in the short term—because their targets aren’t engaged with their work.  That passion-flame to want to learn, change and improve just isn’t there.

As a team leader, manager or business owner you’ll have more luck developing motivated, creative teams if you hire passionate people in the first place.

And if you’re a job seeker looking for a challenging workplace the same applies: make sure the team you’re being hired to fit into, or lead is already passionate.


Kindling passion can be a lengthy process

Passion can be kindled in the in the passionless but it’s a costly process with no guarantee.  Purpose, trust, mastery, recognition and autonomy must align within individuals as well as in their operating culture for passion to ignite and stay lit.

If these elements are not already in place it can take a long time to find what’s missing, weak or incomplete.  Longer still to maintain the appropriate care and attention to keep the proper re-alignment in place and to handle the inevitable breakdowns that will threaten the new passion generating culture.

And again; with no guarantee of success.

If passion isn’t already burning, it may take months or even years to transform an unmotivated team into a passionate high-performance team.

Like attracts like

Another reason to hire first for passion is because of the phenomenon: like attracts like. Passionate people want to work with passionate people. 

Steve Jobs was famously insistent on only working with and hiring A players because he knew A players wanted to work with A players.

And this works in reverse also.  C players want to work with C players.  Wherever sub-performers dominate a culture, they resent, gossip about and eventually drive out A-players.  A-players soon learn to reign in their high productivity and creativity or earn their co-workers’ enmity.

Your new top-performers will leave before you get enough of them to change a sub-performance culture .

So look for passionate people first

So it’s a much more effective strategy to hire first for the passion that fuels creativity, learning and helpfulness.
In The Virgin Way: Everything I know about leadership Sir Richard Branson says he looks for passion first above qualifications.

A passionate core will attract more of the same and the job of keeping the fire going will be lot easier than trying to start one with deadwood.

Regardless of what side of the interview table you’re on

If you’re on the other side of the interview process you should do similar interviewing of your own.  Ask to meet and interview your potential colleagues.  Your potential bosses want to sell you the position because you are —of course—brilliant.

They’re not likely to extol your future passion dead colleagues, yet if you wait till you’re actually on the job to find that out, you’ll be interviewing again soon.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.