To capture employees' hearts and ignite their passion, you must meet one of their most basic psychological needs--to contribute to something bigger, to paint the picture of the deeper purpose behind their job.

Cheryl Johnson is a client of mine. During a recent discussion, we talked about how painting the picture can ignite a personal passion to go the extra mile. Cheryl was reflecting on one of her first jobs as a dishwasher in a hospital. Interestingly, she didn't see her job as that of only a dishwasher.

Most people would wallow in the mundane task of washing dishes, but Cheryl's boss painted a picture of something much more significant. On the first day of work, her boss told Cheryl her job was "to help ensure a clean, healthy environment so patients could heal as fast as possible and go home to their families." Wouldn't you be more passionate about washing dishes if that was your purpose?

We often hear the adage, "Make every minute count!" But count toward what? How do we know if our minutes count? We have to measure our time and our efforts against something. That something is our purpose.

Without a compelling purpose, we are just putting in time. Our minds might be engaged, but our hearts will not be. The work world offers great opportunities for people to connect with a bigger purpose. If you want your team members to make every minute count, give them something to be passionate about. When you get your team inspired about a purpose, their hearts will follow.

The Fundamental Four

Your purpose answers the most fundamental question, "Why do you do what you do?" If your organization has a stated purpose, connect your team's work directly to it. If no one has yet painted the organizational picture, don't wait! Take the initiative to define a purpose for your team. Step back and look at the big picture. Consider how your team improves conditions for others--what difference do they make? Be bold. Your team's purpose should stir their emotions. At the same time, keep your purpose real and relevant, because people can only commit to what they understand.

Then, in order to paint the picture of that purpose, you must answer the Fundamental Four questions that every employee asks (whether or not they ask them aloud):

  1. Where are we going? (goals)
  2. What are we doing to get there? (plans)
  3. How can I contribute? (roles)
  4. What's in it for me? (rewards)

Like all aspects of leadership, painting the picture is not accidental. Our clients who paint a clear picture for their teams are intentional about answering these Fundamental Four questions, weaving their answers into every interaction, meeting and presentation.

Some of them even use the questions as a checklist to ensure that the content of significant communiques addresses each question. As a result, the passion in their organizations is palpably higher and their results are greater.

Answering the Fundamental Four creates a bridge that connects today's tasks to the broader team or organizational purpose. Without purpose, team members may achieve short-term results, but they won't have the heart to go the distance.

On the other hand, they naturally will be more passionate about their work and more motivated to stick with the plan when they clearly understand that they are part of something bigger.