What does it mean to you to be a great employer? What do your employees really think about working for you?

One of the biggest driving forces in inspiring employees to stay with a company is how much the company cares about them and values them. As individuals. Taking the time to identify what makes your employees excited about their work is a very big step in achieving this.

Passionate workers are committed to continually achieving higher levels of performance. Robert Kaplan (author of What You’re Really Meant to Do), writes that ‘numerous studies of highly effective people point to a strong correlation between believing in the mission, enjoying the job, and performing at a high level.’

So, if passion plays an important role in the potential and high performance of others, a good leader will inspire their team by developing them to work towards their passions. How is this done?

One way is to shift your mindset so that you act as a ‘servant leader’. The demands and priorities of work often result in team interactions and conversations with employees being rushed. A leader’s focus is usually focused on getting tasks done or fixing problems. Investing time in developing others toward their passions requires a shift in the mindset of the leader.

‘Servant leadership’  is a phrase coined by Robert Greenleaf in an essay published back in 1970. In it, Greenleaf writes, ‘The servant-leader is servant first…it begins with that natural feeling that one wants to serve. The best test, which is difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?

The best way to introduce a new concept is to incorporate it into the everyday. A key to exploring what drives a person and identifying their passion is to give them an opportunity to pause and reflect in the course of natural work flow. So, for instance:

In advance of a new experience you may ask why they are excited about the new upcoming project or initiative? In what ways do they hope to develop, learn, or grow with this experience?

After key milestones, you may ask whether there was a particular thing/moment they felt great about or were especially proud of on that team or project? What was especially rewarding, meaningful, or inspiring coming out of that project, initiative, or event?

At annual performance reviews (appraisals), you may ask what they most enjoyed working on in the past year and why. Also, explore the types of things they’d like to get more experience on in coming year? You may ask them what inspires them and what if anything further they would relish the opportunity of doing in their current role. 

Having identified what makes your employee ‘tick’, you now have the opportunity of seeing if you can prioritise tasks in their role at the intersection of passion and contribution. This will not always be easy or straightforward but showing this intention will evidence to your employees their value and that you are seeking opportunities to help them grow. 

Conversely, it may become evident after exploration, that you may not always have work or opportunities that hit the “passion contribution” zone for your employees. The key is to recognize when a role has run its course. Don’t become the leader who keeps others “in a box” or gets locked into a view of someone from the past. Not allowing a protégé to move on or spread their wings can create a passion drain for them and affect efficiency and creativity in your operation.

In Sydney Finkelstein’s 2016 HBR article `Secrets of the Superbosses’ (which was based on his review of thousands of articles and books as well as more than 200 interviews), he speaks of how superbosses ‘accept churn’. They recognize that “smart, creative, flexible people tend to have fast-paced careers. Even after someone moves out of their organization, superbosses continue to offer advice, personal introductions, and membership into their networks.

Helping others to develop toward their passions can be a rewarding part of being a leader. By adopting a servant leader’s mindset, helping others to explore, prioritising for passion contribution, and supporting others’ careers beyond their current role, you will not have only increased engagement and loyalty but also be more likely to build long-lasting relationships.


Harvard Business Review
Own the room by Amy Jen Su


Dipti Shah, Employment Law Solicitor
Principal and Owner of ADN LAW

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