Leader Volume 8, Number 12
Dr. Chang is CEO of Richard Chang Associates, Inc., a management consulting company, in Irvine, CA. He is chairman of the board for the American Society for Training and Development and is author of The Passion Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, 1999), from which this article is excerpted.
Not long ago I
was asked to facilitate a business planning meeting for
senior-level managers. When
I asked the executives about management issues in their company, I
was amazed. One after
another, they complained about the company, its procedures, and
complaints were valid, even though this company offered excellent
products and services. But
I soon realized that the criticisms were not the true cause of
to their grievances for fifteen minutes, I stopped them. I surveyed the furrowed brows and pursed lips and asked,
ďIf youíre all so unhappy, whatís keeping you here? The room fell silent. They
were stunned. My
question apparently caught them off guard.
I then said, ďI donít see any balls and chains keeping
you here. If youíre
so miserable, why donít you leave?Ē
A few moments
passed before one director mentioned that she was biding time
until retirement. Another
cited the companyís generous benefits package.
From the corner, in a tone of utter bewilderment, a vice
president responded, ďI have no idea why Iím here.Ē
Not one member of the group cited actual enjoyment of the
job or the feeling of doing something important or worthwhile.
these managers displayed is not so different from that shared by
many people today. We
spend a lot of time doing things we donít want to do in places
we donít want to be for no other reason than that we feel we
have to. We have to
bring home a paycheck, please our friends and family, and meet the
expectations the world has set for us.
If nothing else, we find ourselves in less than ideal
situations out of habit. We
follow the paths our lives begin to take and are too afraid, or
too reluctant, to change our course as time goes by.
I have learned
that those able to overcome the deterrents to fulfillment derive
their energy and initiative from a single source: passion.
The kind of passion that fills you with energy and
excitement, that gets you up in the morning and keeps you awake at
night. When you
experience it, you lose track of time and become absorbed in the
task at hand. This
passion creates personal intensity, uplifts you, and inspires you. It heightens your performance and enables you to achieve
things you may never have dreamed possible.
Most important, it holds the key to your happiness.
Passion is not a
privilege of the fortunate few; it is a right and a power that we
all possess. You
might envy those who are fired up about their lives.
You may view their success as a product of luck or
circumstance, but rarely does either factor play a part.
In case you think
you canít learn or be convinced, Iíll follow up on my tale of
the grumbling executives. When
they returned a week later, they were an entirely different group.
I had asked them to list the things in their lives that
they were excited about. Then
I asked them to brainstorm a list of areas and functions within
the company where they might have the opportunity to pursue some
of these passions. Given
their former misery, I wasnít sure what they would say, but I
was pleasantly surprised.
Each was able to
identify something he or she would like to pursue in the company.
One man realized that one of his passions was competition.
He loved the adrenaline rush he got when he focused on
winning or achieving a quantifiable result.
His position in the finance department offered him little
opportunity to do that; he was enduring his position rather than
enjoying it. Making
his list, he realized he was also uncompetitive in his personal
life. He had not
created an outlet for his passion.
I was not surprised that that he felt apathetic not only
toward his job but toward life in general.
We discussed his
options, and determined that he needed to find a place for
competition in his life. As
work he felt it was possible to move from finance to sales and
marketing or product development, either of which would be more
As the day
progressed, we developed plans for all the executives to let
passion into their work. Some
saw opportunities for change in their existing jobs, whereas
others felt a new position would be the most effective route.
One realized that a more drastic change was necessary--that
he was in the wrong company.
You might think
the company would resent my intervention, but not so.
Within a few months all the managers had improved their
performance and become more fulfilled in their jobs.
The finance manager left accounting and moved into sales
and marketing. Soon
his passion expressed itself, and people noticed.
He became a star performer; before he was thought average.
The changes he made at work were reinforced by changes he
made in his personal life. He
joined the softball team, and as his family cheered him on, he
began to play out the passion he had so long repressed.
The changes this
man made were relatively minor, but they were enough.
How about you letting passion into your work?
If you have been
suffering from passion deficit, it might take a while to discern
between passion and interest.
Think about your potential passion for your work as you ask
the following questions. Check
the statements below that are true for you.
___ I lose track of time when Iím
engaged in this activity.
Give yourself a
point for each statement you marked true.
Then read on to learn where you stand.
0-2 This activity is not a