To motivate staff, discover their passions

Employee motivation is a perennial hot topic for leaders at all levels. What if you had a way to identify what motivates each person on your team? What if your conversations with each employee could be tailored to emphasize what matters most to him or her? What if you could match each person’s tasks and overall responsibilities to his or her strengths? You can do all of this if you understand people’s passions.

Passion is the term used to describe what moves and motivates individuals to take action. Researchers have identified the following six core passions.

Passion for knowledge

People with a passion for knowledge need to understand how things work and why they work the way they do. These people are generally considered by others to be intellectual. They are eager learners interested in new methods and how they can be applied to existing situations. They like to use their knowledge to be the expert in their chosen field.

Passion for results

Those with a passion for results value personal and organizational accomplishments. They are naturally drawn to work that allows them to have a bottom-line impact. These folks are pragmatic, practical, and adept at optimizing physical, financial, and human resources to achieve business results. They like to be rewarded through a combination of financial means, recognition, career opportunities, and other areas of perceived value in exchange for their investment of time and energy.

Passion for creativity

People with a passion for creativity value self-expression. They may be creative in the artistic sense with a keen interest in the fine arts (music, dance, art) or in some other activity (business writing, marketing campaigns, etc.). In the work environment, these people can be very creative, imaginative, and innovative in developing and portraying new products and services. They also strive to maintain work-life balance and harmony in their work environment.

Passion for people

People with a passion for people value opportunities to serve others and to contribute to the greater good of their groups, teams, or organizations. They have a strong drive to help others learn and grow. At work, these people freely volunteer to help others. They make good teachers, coaches and mentors. They are strong team players and will often put others before themselves.

Passion for leading

People with a passion for leading have a strong drive to express their personal power. They like to be seen as unique and distinctive and as the “go-to” person in times of crisis. As leaders of the pack, they work very hard to be No. 1. They are assertive, determined, adaptable and spontaneous in work that gives them a sense of “standing” and respect in the eyes of others. They like to be positioned in a niche where they can excel and stand out in the marketplace.

Passion for tradition

People with a passion for tradition uphold values, rules and regulations. They are the standard bearers of organizations and can be seen as the guardians of the corporate culture. They are structured, orderly and precise in their approaches to their work and to their lives. They work extremely well with others who share their high standards and values.

Leveraging passions to lead change

Each of these six passions is present in everyone to differing extents. The real power lies in being able to identify each person’s top one or two passions. This will enable you as a leader to understand why a person will move toward one thing (an event, a project, a work assignment, a group or team, etc.) and away from another.

As a change leader, you can use your understanding of passions to:

Identify people’s priorities and motivations.

Recognize what may be behind people’s responses to change.

Talk about a change initiative in a way that will motivate people to want to participate.

Imagine for a moment that you are able to identify each of your staff’s highest areas of passion or motivation. You could use this insight to shape internal communications to quickly get people committed to the system, process, procedure, and people changes that accompany every major change initiative. For example, most hospital staffs are predominantly people-oriented. Therefore, hospital leaders who wish to lead change will be more successful if they emphasize how the change will help people than if they emphasize financial outcomes. In any organization or industry, plugging into passions can help you generate buy-in, acceptance and support.

Mack is a Woodland Park-based consultant, speaker and author specializing in leading and communicating change. She can be reached at