Shared Passion as an Organizational Force

by Sarah Thrift on May 15, 2014

Take a moment to think about the things in your life that you are passionate about.

Now imagine you could be doing one of those things right now. How do you feel?

Most likely you feel good, energized. If you were feeling tired, then maybe that lifted as you felt the excitement of doing something you love. In a recent survey conducted by Phillips, over 90% of the study’s participants said that being able to connect their passions and personal interests with their work would motivate them to care more about their work and to work harder¹.


Having a passion for something is like a magic spark, igniting us to achieve things we could not otherwise do. We only need to look at great sportspeople or writers or businesspeople to see how a love for what they are doing has fueled their journey.

I love working with people who are passionate about what they are doing. Their passion is infectious. Work doesn’t feel like work, but an expression of what we care about and who we are.
Working with a global humanitarian organization, I was struck by how passionate people were. I was inspired, carried on a whirlwind of excitement generated by the new people I was meeting every day.
Quite quickly though, something else started to emerge. I continued to meet people who were as least as passionate and inspiring. But as I got to understand their passions in more detail, I began to see how these passions led in quite different directions and rarely truly aligned with the organization’s goals. One person’s passions might have only slightly deviated from the organization’s mission and strategy, but iterate these small differences across hundreds of people throughout an organization and the impact was devastating. Passion, instead of propelling the organization forward, was destructively pulling it in conflicting directions.

Having passion is not enough. To fulfill its promise, passion needs to transcend an individual’s personal interests. It needs to create bridges between people. And it needs to inspire actions in service of the organization’s goals.

A first step toward this is for each team member to understand their colleague’s passions. By delving below the surface and appreciating what makes a person love what they love, unexpected areas of shared interest and passion can emerge.

The same approach can be taken with aligning to an organization‘s goals: understanding why they are what they are and seeking ways to meet these goals that build on shared interests. At times, this will mean discontinuing our pet projects in service of a greater goal. But if passion is to be a force for good in our organizations, it also needs to be one which aligns and unites us.



New Beginnings

by Sarah Thrift on January 1, 2014

On the first day of the New Year, here are some thoughts for making the most of this new beginning:


  • Know yourself. Plato said that “the first and best victory is to conquer self”. It is through really knowing ourselves as we are that we can truly develop ourselves. New beginnings are an excellent time to take stock of what you know about yourself. What are your strengths and your weaknesses? What did you excel at in 2013 and where did you fall down? Write down the answers to these questions and ask friends and colleagues for their feedback. Make it your quest for 2014 to learn more about yourself. Keep writing it down as you continue to learn more.

  • Care for yourself: If you want to perform at your best, then just like an athlete, you need to be looking after yourself – what you eat, how much you exercise, how much and how well you sleep. Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts in any of these areas. A few nights of little sleep may be unavoidable at times, but if it becomes a habit then sound the alarm. We owe it to ourselves and to the organizations we work for to perform at our best and we can’t do this if our bodies are suffering

  • Manage yourself: Now that you know yourself, be in control of yourself. Observe your emotions and moods and learn to regulate them. Be aware of your impact on others and adapt your behavior to fit with each circumstance. Have a positive frame of mind as this helps you and everyone around you (it’s contagious!). Reflect on the ways in which you can bring positivity in your home and workplace and in so doing build the foundations of a positive environment.

  • Create a 2014 vision statement: for yourself and if you have one, for your business. This is about writing down what you or your organization want to be. Take time to reflect on what your vision is and to choose the right words to accurately articulate it. Pin the vision statement up by your desk or by your bed and then read it every day. Every day, ask yourself: in what ways did my actions today take me towards my vision for 2014?

  • Mentor – be one and find one: being of service is a great honor, not to mention immensely satisfying. Look for someone in the workplace who would benefit from your time and expertise and offer to be their mentor. While you are at it, also find yourself a mentor. You are never too old nor too experienced to learn from someone else.

  • Express gratitude: to your loved ones, to those you work with and to those with whom you make a brief acquaintance. Make this a daily practice. At the end of each day, as the last thing you do before going to sleep, it’s also remarkably powerful to write down 10 things you are grateful for.

  • Believe you can overcome. To quote Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”. Giving up simply is not a option, however hard something is. By believing you can win, you believe in yourself.