Sparking Employee Passion

The key to passionate performance is found within the hearts and minds of employees where their basic human needs are fulfilled, says Lee Colan for It’s a simple but powerful formula: When their needs are fulfilled, they are engaged and perform at their peak ability. When their needs are not met, they are frustrated, out of control, unfocused, and disconnected. In a word, disengaged.

To meet these needs, leaders must first acknowledge and understand them. In order to do that, leaders must view their employees as people and not just workers. Once you do that, you will be able to identify their six basic needs–three of which are intellectual and the other three emotional. The goal of this post will be to highlight the three emotional needs: Purpose, Intimacy, and Appreciation.

Need #1: Purpose
The need to contribute to something bigger than ourselves is a basic psychological need. So, leaders must build a bridge between today’s tasks and brighter tomorrow. In essence, you need to create a compelling cause for your team to fight for. If your team’s “why” is strong enough, the “how” will take care of itself.

Need #2: Intimacy
Nothing we achieve in this world is achieved alone. It is always achieved with others helping us along the way. We all want to–and need to–belong. As the leader, you can create connections with rituals. Rituals create intimacy by making us feel special and unique from other teams. Ensure your rituals are natural to your leadership style and 100 percent reliable, whether it’s a Monday morning huddle up, a Friday birthday lunch, a quarterly community service day, or monthly performance recognition. The key is for them to be natural and reliable.

Need #3: Appreciation
People do more for those who appreciate them. Although leaders widely recognize the need for appreciation, it tends to be a blind spot. That is, they generally believe they are much more appreciative of their teams than their teams think they are. The reason is that they do not convert their invisible thoughts of appreciation into visible acts of appreciation. With all of today’s technology options, it’s easy to find ourselves too busy for face-to-face interaction, but that’s one of the best ways to charge up our teams. Showing appreciation is not a matter of time and intention; rather, it’s a matter of priority and action.

This is basic psychology–reinforce those behaviours that you want to see more frequently. When you spot your team doing something right, praise them for it…and do it often. The key is to be sincere and specific. In other words, don’t fall into the trap of blurting out the robotic “Good job”. Take the time to thoughtfully explain why you appreciated the specific action taken by a team member.