How Leaders Can Help Cultivate a Passionate Workforce

When you’re in a room with someone who is passionate about their work, you can feel and feed off of their energy. But according to a comprehensive report from Deloitte, you don’t get that feeling from most. The report found that 88% of employees don’t have passion for their work.

Passion is defined in the study as indicators that include “continuously doing something that you like, that you find important, and in which you invest a lot of time and energy.” Passionate workers have a commitment to the area they’re in and are deeply committed to the work they do.

However, passion is often confused with excitement. Moving into a new role, starting a new project or working with a new client are all things that are easy to get excited about. But this initial thrill usually fizzles out over time. It’s easy to get bored and lose motivation after being in a role for a long period of time. Excitement is an temporary emotion, while passion is what will drive you in the long run. Developing deep passion is not instantaneous. It requires time and dedication that many leaders will simply not invest into helping their employees.

But what is so important about cultivating a passionate team?

Passion for your work is critical. Unengaged and apathetic employees weigh down an organization’s productivity, quality of work and drive for continuous improvement. In today’s rapidly changing and competitive business environment, companies need passionate employees to drive extreme and sustained performance. Motivating employees to give you a one-time performance bump through carrot and stick initiatives like bonuses just doesn’t cut it anymore.

But even more alarming than not recognizing the value of a passionate workforce, some companies actually view it with cynicism. Many structures and processes are designed to minimize risk-taking and variances from standard procedures, which effectively discourages passion. Passionate workers in search of new challenges and learning opportunities are viewed as unpredictable and even “risky.” This type of thinking is the exact reason why employees lose or never gain passion for their work.

However, admirable companies cringe at this thought and are elated to pick up the slack in order to attract and retain the best talent. They intuitively know there is an obvious correlation between passion and an engaged employee that will help propel the company’s growth.

If you see the benefits of having an engaged workforce, what steps as a leader can you take to improve passion in your workplace? Let’s discuss a few ideas.

Role model what you want to see

One of the easiest things leaders can do right away is being a role model for what they want to see. If you are passionate about something, others will begin to cultivate their passion too. As a leader, it’s your job to model how much energy others should bring to work every day. If you don’t care, then how can you expect your team to care? According to the same survey mentioned above, Deloitte found that an astonishing 80% of senior managers aren’t passionate about their work. It’s no surprise that our workforces today are plagued with lack of passion for what they do. This starts at the top. Leaders should demonstrate positive body language and use emotional words such as thrilled, pumped and enthusiastic when discussing projects and assignments to convey energy. Take the guesswork out of it. If you want people to know how you feel, tell them, but more importantly, show them.

Understand your team

Start from the beginning. Figure out what lights each of your team members up. Establish an emotional connection and create a safe environment to discuss and explore interests. Having an interest is the starting block to developing passion. Identify what each person needs to support that exploration through conversation and project assignments. Understanding an employee’s personal goals can be an effective tool to motivate them. Make the connection between their goals and their current role and responsibilities.

Connect your team with others

The Deloitte survey recommends that you help employees connect with other internal people at the company and network with people outside of their workplace. Identify passionate individuals in your social network that would be good to introduce to your team. Help make introductions to appropriate contacts if you can spot a useful link. People who are passionate about what they do are always looking to connect with others to help them improve and solve problems.

Assign new projects

Challenge your team to work on new things. Mixing up the routine of work will help break the boredom that many employees experience today. As a leader, assign challenging work that will make them think differently, try out new behaviors or work with different people. Delegate projects and responsibilities off of your desk and this could turn into a win for both you and your employee. Encourage the pursuit of side projects, joining work committees or simply assign a process improvement project where they identify and present one key way to improve what they do.

Encourage learning again

Be active about encouraging your team to be intentional with their learning again. Learning often gets pushed to the back as daily responsibilities begin to pile up. Learning will reignite the pursuit of passion within an employee. Give your team the resources they need to learn, such as a budget for books, online courses and conferences. Have conversations about areas employees can focus on learning more about in the upcoming months and help them design a learning path to execute it. As a team leader, share informative articles, videos or external learning opportunities to reinforce your support and commitment to learning.

Have them visit clients

Regardless if the role involves interacting with clients, I encourage all leaders to push their personnel to get out of the building and visit the company’s clients. This should serve as a reminder to who you’re working with and the impact that you make. Visit customers at their offices, watch them work, attend a meeting or conference or visit the places where they encounter the company’s products. The reengagement to the final transaction often acts as a reengagement to their original passion for joining the company.

Everyone wants to have passion for their work. It’s important to not only be engaged but be led by someone that is engaged as well. As a leader, make it your goal to nurture your talent, care about pursuit of passion and promote the overarching mission of the company. Remember, good managers stir excitement, but great managers inspire passion.

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Want to connect further about personal coaching, speaking opportunities or other engagements you think I could help you with? Connect with me or send me an email at As always, special thanks to my editor and partner Gaby Deimeke.

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