I met with the Honourable Ms Julie Bishop shortly before Christmas. She is the current Australian Federal Opposition Deputy Leader and, if polls are a good predictor, possibly the next Deputy Prime Minister of Australia later this year. I and a number of other business-people in Perth had an informal and very personal breakfast with her in this, her hometown. Ms Bishop was charming (an advantage for any politician), unguarded and totally engaging with everyone around her. She responded very personally and frankly to our discussions and questions and came across as disarmingly genuine. Everyone was suitably impressed and delighted.
I was most impressed, however, with her response when someone asked why she gets up every morning to do what she does under the spotlight and glare of national and, as the shadow minister for foreign affairs, international media and pressure. Her response was unequivocal and emotional: “I really love what I do. I love serving my area, my state and my nation and I get up with an intense passion and drive to do that every day. There are bad days and moments, but on the whole I love what I get to do to serve the public!”
I define passion as being devoted to something to which you believe you can apply your talents and skills in such a way that you can enjoy the process and, if you’re active in the field, make a difference. It’s an alignment between your interests, your purpose and your gifts, enabling you to devote your whole self to something.
When coaching, I often find that people have lost their passion at work or find it being overwhelmed with the trivialities of the daily grind. I understand that. I’ve been there too. When I last changed my career, I found that the barriers to performing well and to feeling that my talents were being used and appreciated (whether by me or by my clients) were too great to overcome. So I changed course in order to use them more. My wife commented instantly on the change: I was “back” to “her” Peter. I was energetic, engaged, creative. I was happier and more talkative at home. Less grumpy. You know the drill…
For years now, I’ve been helping people to rediscover that passion in their own work or to branch out to find new ways to develop a passion. There are ways to overcome the barriers within your workplace. Often, my organisational work involves restructuring or removing barriers to performance within the workplace. Even working on bringing in more money for the business can have a profound impact on your ability to perform well.
It was Abraham Maslow who pointed out that, in an organisational context, people’s need to provide for their own basic security was a prime driver and motivator. But high levels of performance come at the much higher levels of need – belonging, respect, accomplishment, self-actualisation and the actualisation of others.
In my studies of gifted professionals, I found that they were wholeheartedly engaged in their profession and achieved great success as a result. When their passion wavered, so did their results.
We are just starting 2013. There’s no time to waste. If you’re not passionate about your work, then you have to make efforts to find, rediscover or re-orient that passion. Don’t allow your life, your family and your career to languish, because there is so much that you can do to utilise your talents to their greatest. If you’re in a capacity to do so, you can make sure that the people around you are able to do likewise. Like Julie Bishop, we can be excited and thrilled with the work we’re doing and really “love it.”