Passion that Pays

No matter what country, what kind of business, what the competitive set looks like, or what kind of challenges you face, success in any enterprise comes down to one thing — the people you have on your team. How talented they are, how rapidly they develop, and how motivated and inspired they are.

If you take care of your people, the business takes care of itself.

Business leaders face more challenges today in creating a world class workforce than our forefathers did. Offering a “good job” is no longer good enough. We operate in a global world with a global workforce and global opportunity. The Gen X and Y prospective employees look beyond just a job itself. They want more.

When you boil it down, the best today don’t want jobs, they want avocations.

A job in simple terms is a means to an end. It is something one does to earn a paycheck, to feed a family and pay the bills. You don’t necessarily like it. But it’s a job, and it pays the bills, so you do it. You roll out of bed, moan a bit, and drag yourself to work.

An avocation is something totally different. An avocation is something you love to do. You enjoy every minute of it. And best of all, you get paid for doing it!

A job is a job. An avocation is a passion that pays. When you see an athlete interviewed on TV, saying, “I am living a dream, I get paid to play the game I love to play.” Well there you have it. This is an avocation. So, we business leaders, if we want to take care of our people and hence our business we must stop having jobs in our organizations, and start creating avocations.

So how does one do this? I believe there are six crucial elements to creating a corporate culture that breeds avocations, rather than the dull and dreary jobs.

• Inspiring vision. People want to know they are a part of something bigger, a more important vision than just “doing business.” How can being a part of this organization help define the legacy they want to leave? It must go beyond numeric results, profits and sales figures. Does your organization’s vision define greatness? Does it improve the world in which we live in some tangible way? These are the elements that inspire the best.

One such organization is Jollibee, which today stands in the minds of the Filipino as a source of local pride. The only homegrown food chain that has outperformed foreign brands like McDonald’s, Tony Tan Caktiong was able to transform a simple ice cream parlor to the largest fast food chain in the country with a simple vision: bringing the joy of eating to everyone and making every moment a happy encounter. With iconic offerings like the Chickenjoy and Yumburger, whose recipe has been especially designed to suit the Philippine palate, served at prices the masses can afford, it’s no wonder that Jollibee is the place to be for the typical Filipino family on a weekend.

• Work environment. Do the math. On an average day, we spend more waking time at the workplace than in any other location, including our homes! Gone are the days a desk and a chair and a few paintings on the wall are enough. Environments that breed avocations stimulate the senses. They inspire. They pamper. They stimulate creativity and risk taking. White walls, bland colored carpets, and uniformity everywhere you look does none of this. This is a place where mere jobs exist!

• Eliminate bureaucracy, politics, and entitlement. These sap the energy and passion out of anyone, and good leaders thus stamp them out. True leaders create environments where decisions are made quickly and expeditiously. Where all can speak their mind and there are no barriers to collaboration. And where special perks for the boss that signals subtle “superiority” are non existent. Remember, in history the great generals always took their meals after the soldiers were fed. They never took the entitlement to jump to the front of the line.

• Set the bar high. The best people strive to be a part of something special, where the standards are high to gain admission. Acceptance of mediocrity only is motivating to the mediocre! It is invigorating to be a part of a team of the best. This means being uncompromising on standards of excellence. Those that make it get rewarded. Those that don’t get the right coaching and training. And those who after it all can’t or won’t, don’t get to stick around for the journey. This includes holding ruthless standards for middle managers, those responsible for hiring and training the future generation of leaders. They must absolutely, positively recognize the critical role they play, and deliver each and every day to an ever increasing bar height.

• Promote risk taking. Not crazy risks, but calculated risks that have been carefully evaluated. Nothing inspires more than the “rush” of a worthy risk being taken! Those in avocations realize “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and they realize that to make progress they must gamble and be prepared to even fail from time to time. They know anyone seeking 100 percent success, all the time; will be relegated to bland goals, bland work, and certainly bland results.

Known as the “Retail King of Asia,” Henry Sy’s rags-to-riches story all started with a calculated risk: He opened his first supermall in Quezon City, a district of greater Manila that was then practically undeveloped, during the turbulent 1980’s. People said they would lose his shirt; instead he changed the way the Filipinos shopped and began a shopping mall boom where he continues to reign supreme. Today, three of his SM malls are in the top 10 largest in Asia, and from the number of Filipinos frequenting them each day, Henry Sy and SM has proven that they’ve truly “got it all for you.”

• Ensuring personal growth. Whilst those in mere jobs are often content to stay in one place and never take on new challenges, those in avocations strive for growth. They want to learn and improve everyday, and so their leaders must be ready! This means robust training programs. Opportunities to change roles, functions, locations. A culture that promotes stretching people and keeping them challenged. And of course, great leaders above them that inspire, motivate, train, and even sometimes deliver a firm kick up the backside when warranted!

The fact of the matter is, some companies offer jobs. Others offer avocations. And more often than not, one will see the one with the avocations winning. Winning in all measurable respects.

It all starts with a culture that breeds avocations. And this is a culture today’s employees will love to join, and hate to leave.

(James Lafferty is a former track and field coach. He is still heavily into running and joins marathons with his family.)