The Great Power Of Connecting Passion With Purpose

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(Forbes article) Every individual has gifts and talents that can make a lasting impact. However, only a minority of people utilize those gifts and talents to live up to their full potential. Tying your gifts and talents with your personal purpose not only leads to a more successful career, but a significant one. Many Boomers, as they begin to approach the end of their career, are looking for greater significance. Interestingly, many Millennials, at the other end of their careers, are also looking for significance right out of the gate. As leaders, helping others find their passions and help them have significance at work are becoming bigger parts of our job. And as Millennials continue to make up an increasing part of our workforce, this trend will only become more important.

Let’s start with a story. Jesse is a director at a global technology company, is in his early thirties, and is part of their emerging leader program. As a child, Jesse really wanted to be a teacher. He even went as far as getting his parents to put a blackboard in his room so that he could play “pretend teacher”.

Jesse grew up influenced by people, TV and movies that changed his focus to landing a “cool job” that comes with money, title and prestige. He went on to do his Master’s Degree in Computer Science and became a computer programmer. He was doing what he thought he was supposed to and what he went to school for.

“In this role, I was not happy and felt empty and people could tell,” Jesse said. “This led me to a self-discovery process that was not easy. I really needed to find myself; to critically look at what I am good and not good at, and what really makes me happy”.

He got a new job as a Technical Trainer teaching people better ways of solving business problems through technology. This was when the light bulb went on for him and made him come full circle – back to his personal purpose of teaching and developing people.

This was written with Glem Dias.

Today he is in a leadership role teaching and mentoring people. He also teaches computer classes as an adjunct professor, regularly speaks at industry conferences, and enjoys his young family with his wife and two boys. Jesse acknowledges that, “I am now able to give my best self to others and live up to my initial ideals. I am able to see the impact, and people around me can sense that I love what I do”.

He further explains that, “My passion needed purpose that is rippling into areas bigger than me. I do have my moments of distractions, but my purpose gets me back on track to focus on what is important”.

So what’s your story? The best way to find out is to pause and ponder over some key questions. It is not necessary to have all the answers, but it is important to think through questions like:

• How have your passion and interests evolved to shape your purpose? How do they connect to your interests and dreams from your early days?
• What pursuits would inspire and give meaning to you?
• What impact would you like to make on others?

Both of us have been involved in executive development for over two decades. This adds up to more than 2000 employees and leaders globally. We have observed first hand that people with a sense of purpose are more engaged in their work, they realize their interests and passions, and they live out their personal values as they make a positive impact on others.

Mark Shearer, Executive Vice President and President, SMB Business Solutions at Pitney Bowes says, “People who are connected to their passion can be spotted from a mile away. They unleash their energy to make our clients win”.

Passion gives you the fuel to stay the course, and when it may not seem possible, you do it anyway. People describe that when they are “in the zone” they are able to filter out background noise and it’s easy to get lost in the work and not notice the passage of time. Passion must be channeled as a force for the greater good or else it can be counter-productive.

The four ‘S’s below help assess where you are today and help chart a path towards making a bigger impact.
Struggle: Life is a challenge with significant risks in meeting your needs.
Survival: The role is just for your security and it pays the bills.
Success: The role taps into your talent. Adds personal value by achieving or over achieving goals.
Significance: Creating excellence. Committed to a purpose that is bigger than you and is about impacting others.

An example of Significance is described in the words of Rebecca Shields, CEO, of the Canadian Mental Health Association – York & South Simcoe: “I feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to inspire philanthropy where I feel the passion of each person’s energy is pushing you to make a difference”.

How do you get started on your path to success or significance? We would like to review three key steps that also draw inspiration from Jesse’s story.
1) First, see where you are within the four ‘S’s above, and do a self-discovery to gain insights into your own gifts, talents, and passion. Identify an area of work where you have a strong desire and interest (Jesse went through a self -discovery and re-discovered his love of teaching).
2) Second, recognize your potential talents, as you are experiencing some degree of success (Jesse was solving client problems and enabling others to be effective).
3) Third, there needs to be strong validation of your impact (Jesse was getting excellent feedback from clients and was sought after for advice and guidance).

T.D. Jakes states it very succinctly and memorably: “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose”.

You might say, how can I transition from my “not so exciting” day job to something that I am passionate about? Glem was faced with exactly this challenge in 2002. He was an HR Generalist at a mid-size software company and was passionate about leadership development. Over the next two years, he volunteered to take on leadership projects and actively coached leaders over and above his day job.

This created some excitement in his job and prepared him to join a large retail company in a leadership development role. After progressing through leadership strategy work over the next decade with two global companies, he now runs his own leadership strategy practice. He feels very privileged to do the work that he loves to do.

After 11 years in sales and marketing management positions at IBM and Hitachi, Karl quit high tech to do a Ph.D., research and teach. In his 50s, many of his former colleagues at IBM are ready to step down or at least step back, but Karl loves his work and wants to emulate his mentor Henry Mintzberg, who at 75, had a new book come out last week.

Our lives become meaningful through the impact we make on others, more so than living and working just for ourselves. As we grow, our passion has to inspire others’ passions and dreams. Shawn Baldwin, Senior Vice President at Walmart Stores says “As leaders we have the opportunity to bring people together to do something that is bigger than they are as individuals”.

Employee Surveys at different organizations have consistently shown that employees want to connect with the big picture. Over the last three years, we, particularly Karl, have worked with +500 high-potential Millennials from 15 different countries. These individuals are looking to be engaged in meaningful work and opportunities for growth through mentoring and coaching. In our experience, we have seen that if you align people to do what they are passionate about, they will figure out how to create value.

Corporate Leadership Council’s research concludes that only 19% of senior leaders are Talent Champions – people who are highly committed and effective in developing people. This presents a significant un-tapped opportunity for leaders to connect people’s passions and talent to their role, contribution and aspirations. This study further confirms that Talent Champions lead teams with higher results, engagement and retention. The Executives interviewed for this blog are all examples of Talent Champions.

This approach makes it a rewarding journey for leaders, where they see alignment, synergy and team members cheering for the same thing. Renata Mihich, Managing Director at DHL Global Forwarding, Canada explains, “I feel most energized when I see the passion for the vision through the eyes of my team”.

Our busyness can get in the way of focusing on what really matters. What have been your best moments in life? You might be able to connect the dots looking back at what gives meaning to your life. Inspiring moments connect you with who you are. Realizing and accepting who you are and being true to who you are can empower you to make your dreams a reality, and reach the highest expression of yourself.

Next time we will write about how our passion may well change over time.

Glem Dias is an award winning leadership strategist who has led full life cycle talent strategies at Pitney Bowes, Walmart and Morgan Stanley. He runs his own leadership strategy practice and is a Program Director of the Global Talent Centre, at the Schulich Executive Education Centre, York University. …

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