Sustaining Passion

Stephanie, a good friend of mine and former colleague at Inn on Biltmore Estate (IoBE) recently posed an excellent question:

One of your posts discussed being tired - and the necessity of taking time off, but how do you keep the passion alive? It was easy to have passion when we were going through the IoBE pre-opening as well as during those first few years, but over time, doesn't that passion dwindle? I liken it to marriage...guess you've got to figure out ways to keep things fresh and interesting...and that is where management needs to be sharp so the entire team doesn't lose that momentum. (I also think that our opening LT had a certain synergy that really kept us going and it spilled over to the rest of the staff. Maybe I've answered my own question?)
In her usual way, she also started me down the right path toward an answer...

I think marriage is a very good analogy. Just like marriage, a project, job or career is a journey. You’re right, we need to keep it interesting to make it meaningful…and to make it work.

Management’s job is to keep new challenges and ideas flowing…to keep it fun.

Here’s my expanded version of Stephanie’s thought:

Find Passionate People- Find people who really love what they do. Then, make sure that love matches what you want them to do. Don’t just hire people who have experience and a “good track record”. Hire those with a passion for what you need them to do. Yes, it’s a little bit (or maybe a lot) of Dr. Gerald Bell’s, Selecting Achievers model.
Build a Team With Synergy- Build a team where everyone respects the other members. Build a team where everyone is first loyal to the team, then to everyone else. Build a team that feels like they would go anywhere, do any job, etc., to be with the others on the team. Now you’ve got a passionate core (that’s what we had during pre-opening).
Keep People Challenged- Give them things to do that are interesting to them…not just to you. That’s typically where we fall short. We give people problems to solve that they could care less about and many times are inconsistent with the primary goal. That’s boring.
Stay Focused- Keep doing whatever it is your best at. That’s why people came to work for you in the first place. If you change course, you might need new folks.
Ask Questions- Occasionally ask people if they’re bored? If they are…change what you’re doing.

Sometimes people just need a change (just like in marriage). That’s okay. In fact, offer help in finding them something new. Because, likely, it’s not “them” that’s the problem. It’s more likely you, your project or a combination that’s lost its luster. So, rather than milk a person’s creativity until you are both dissatisfied, help a fellow human regain the love and passion that attracted you to them in the first place. You’ll both be glad you did.