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Passion – The Forgotten Foundation for Business Success (no matter what business you’re in)

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While most of us strive to live our personal lives with passion, we tend to believe that emotion in general, and passion in particular, has little or no role to play when it comes to business. That is, we seem to assume that data, analytics, and reasoned thinking should rule the day when it comes to running a successful business and that emotion, intuition, and passion are the realm of the irrational and are incompatible with successful business operations.

This is unfortunate because this belief couldn’t be further from the truth.

First of all, many organizations and business leaders fail to realize that their customers’/stakeholders’ perception of them and their brand is actually built on two aspects: the functional aspect of the business (i.e. what they do/provide and how the do/provide it), and the emotional aspect (i.e. how the customers/stakeholders feel). And, to take this idea further, it’s important to realize that these two aspects are not equally weighted in what can be called the “brand balance” (see Duane Knapp in his book The Brand Promise). The emotional aspect actually plays a far greater role in differentiating you and attracting your customer than the function aspect. In the brand balance, the scales are tipped in favor of the emotional, not the functional. So, when it comes to attracting your customers and stakeholders, connecting with their emotions is critical.

Companies and organizations that are customer/stakeholder magnets understand the importance emotion and passion play in this part of the business success equation.

What about employees? Does emotion play a relevant role here too? You better believe it does.

These days, it seems that companies and organizations are treating their employees like just another resource or capital asset – they invest as little as they need to in them and engage in what feels like a transactional employment contract with a short-term focus (i.e. a day’s wages from the employer in return for a fair day of work by the employee). I know that this seems a bit harsh but just look around. Fewer and fewer organizations are investing in employee training and development, providing employee benefits, etc. More and more, company values have become words written on the wall versus words to live by at all levels of the organization. And, less than 5% of the workforce continues to really understand their organization’s mission, vision, and strategy, making it hard for them to see with any level of confidence how their contribution at work links with the bigger picture, purpose, and real difference the company is trying to make for their customers/stakeholders – and in the world. As a result, many employees focus on their day to day tasks and struggle to feel that their work is valued and/or is important.

Sadly, many have resigned themselves to trading time for a paycheque.

It seems that many organizations want to park employee wants, aspirations, and emotions at the door. They know that they should do things differently but it could be costly and messy – many organizations and business leaders think that it’s safer to just treat people as rationally and unemotionally as possible.

However, people are emotional beings – we all dream of channeling our personal purpose and passion into work that makes a difference, inspires us, and helps us grow as individuals. Great companies that are known as employee magnets recognize and embrace this. They build an emotional and strong (passionate?) relationship with their employees that is beneficial for the employee, the organization, and the customer/stakeholder.

What successful companies and organizations understand is that the business success equation is really a passion equation. This is what I think it looks like.

Passion Attracts Graphic

Now, let’s take a closer look at how this passion equation works.

The Customer/Stakeholder – Company Passion Equation

Your target customer or number one stakeholder has lots of wants, needs, expectations, and desires. While wants and needs are often (but not always) focused on material things (i.e. the functional aspect of the brand balance), expectations often have an emotional component.

However, desires are quite another matter – where there’s desire, there’s passion.

Smart organizations understand this so they get to know their customers so well that they discover their unfulfilled desires. They know that successfully fulfilling these deep desires will make them irresistible to their customers and primary stakeholders.

However, it’s important to understand that while you can take a very analytical and mechanical approach to determining and even fulfilling a customer or stakeholder’s unfulfilled desires, you’ll never achieve exceptional business success unless fulfilling those deep desires is what you and your organization care passionately about. That is, your company’s purpose and promise to your customers/primary stakeholder must be an emotional commitment, not simply an intellectual one.

This is THE secret that makes your organization an irresistible magnet for customers and stakeholders – your customers and stakeholders can feel it when your company has a deep passion for helping them have what they passionately desire.

The Company-Employee Passion Equation

While organizations make a “passion promise” (i.e. their mission, vision, value proposition, and desired customer/stakeholder experience) to their customers/stakeholders, organizations don’t really deliver on that promise – their employees are the ones who do. Yes, organizations create processes and implement infrastructure that enable delivering their passion promise, but MOST rely on their people to make a passionate connection with each other and with the company’s customers/stakeholders to make the passion promise come alive.

The only way that this can work is for your employees’ passion to resonate with your organization’s passion for giving customers and stakeholders what they passionately desire. The more that your employees’ passion, purpose, aspirations, and personal goals are vibrating on the same frequency with your organization’s passion promise, the more natural and easier it is for everyone to work together with passion and commitment for the same purpose. You just have to look at successful organizations like zappos.com to see this truth in action.

Now, this isn’t new – most of us call it “hiring for fit”. However, it’s amazing how often employee hiring focuses on skills and functional expertise rather than fit. In my experience, this happens for some of these reasons: either the organization hasn’t clearly identified its passion promise, or it has fallen into the trap of discounting the importance of emotion and passion in the brand balance, and/or it believes that products and organizational processes and structures (rather than employee-customer/stakeholder interactions) are the real key to giving customers and stakeholders what they want.

Wildly successful organizations KNOW the secret of the passion equation and UNDERSTAND the role that it plays in building a solid foundation for sustainable business success.

As a result, they live by two immutable laws that successfully fuse the emotional aspects of business with certain rational truths to put the passion equation into action – I call them the two laws of “passiondynamics”:

The first law of “passiondynamics”: To achieve the success you seek, giving your customers/stakeholders what they passionately desire must be your company’s true passion.

The second law of “passiondynamics”: To bring your passion promise to life for your customers/stakeholders, you and your employees must have passion resonance.

The result of living by the laws of “passiondynamics”?

Emotionally-satisfying experiences that are magnetic and have lasting impact – for customers, stakeholders, and employees,

Amazing, sustainable business results and outcomes, and

True fulfillment of your organization’s passion promise.