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Increase Employee Performance With Passions, Ambitions & Talents (PATs). Research>Example>Action

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

Photo by Kal Visuals

Conley and Zigarmi (2019) say it perfectly, "Every day the spirits of millions of people die at the front door of their workplace."

When we talk about one's work passion, we must speak in parallel with one's sense of personal identity. This includes the fruitful bundle of talent, skill, creativity, innovation, and of course, discretionary effort.

People bring to organizations powerful passions, tremendous talents, specific skills, and grand ambitions. Oftentimes, complacency and other forces begin to mask those passions, ambitions, and talents (PATs), and tapping into them becomes a lesser priority. Read on to discover specific techniques as well as effective mindsets to bring out the most in employees and colleagues.

Quick-hit, 2-7 minute conversations around PATs can have a tremendous impact on employee retention, performance, morale, motivation, development, and even organizational commitment. Let’s be challenged to rethink current views regarding the amount of resources necessary to produce the impacts mentioned above.

You can practice simple actions; you’ll also immediately see new connections between your own PATs and your current role, and will be able to draw out those same connections for others. Do this with new AND current employees.


How to Identify Work Passion

When employees freely give their time and energy to activities that add to their sense of identity (Forest, Mageau, Sarrazin & Morin, 2011).

More Work Passion = Increased Employee Performance

There is a positive correlation between work passion and one's emotional desire to do right and give extra energy for the company (Zigarmi, Galloway & Roberts, 2018).

More Work Passion = Less Burnout

There is a negative correlation between work passion and burnout (Curra, Hill, Appleton, Vallerand & Standage, 2015).


Ask PROVEN starter questions to get things going. They are surprisingly simple, yet tremendously effective.



Today, choose ONE employee, and use ONE of the following starter questions:

a. Say to someone "What are you really good at? Here or in your free time?"

b. Ask someone for his/her perspective on a situation you are struggling with.

c. Say to someone, “What was one of your greatest achievements? How did you achieve it?

d. Say to someone, “What are your personal qualities that give you a sense of fulfillment about your job?” “What have you found that best enables those qualities?"

e. Say to someone, “On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most), how empowered have you felt today to use your best work talents?” Discuss.


*Use your own charm, wit, and charisma to slightly alter the questions.

· Do these seem awkward and unnatural at first? OF COURSE!

· Do they make a true positive impact? YES!

· Does this usually take less than 5 minutes? SURE DOES!

Guess what? After the first few times, the weirdness factor disappears, and all that's left are employees who feel appreciated and are on their path to a positive emotional attachment to your company.

Before long, your employees should be able to make these following statements:

1. My supervisor can describe what my greatest talents are.

2. My coworkers can describe what my greatest talents are.

3. My supervisor ties in my current job duties with my passions.

4. My supervisor speaks of my greatest talents when discussing projects.

5. My supervisor shares professional development avenues that tie in with my ambitions.


It can seem tough initially to tie in one's passion with even the most mundane task-oriented jobs. I believe that even the most mundane jobs can be tied into someone's passion (example below). If your first thought is %$#@?, don’t worry. It can be done and fairly easily.

This is one of those things that takes putting literally five minutes aside. I've seen this done in my workshops over 100 times.

My absolute favorite was during a train-the-trainer teach-back test, when a sous chef was using this exercise to get me excited to learn how to properly cut and serve a pineapple.

Within about three minutes he had me imagining that instead of cutting a prickly pineapple, I had caught and was filleting the day's catch on a pier in Florida.


A restaurant supervisor was struggling with how to motivate and increase performance of a new part-time server working a summer job. After A little coaching, the supervisor spoke with the server. The conversation went something like this:

Supervisor: I noticed you sharing pictures of animals with coworkers. Seems like you're a real animal lover.

Server: Yeah, I love animals.

Supervisor: Does that tie into something you want to do in the future?

Server: I'm going to school to become a veterinary assistant.

Supervisor: Sounds like serving at restaurant is a means to get you through school so you can pursue your passion.

Server: Yep, I don't like doing this much. It's boring but it helps with bills. I really hate doing the place setting the most.

Supervisor: When you become a veterinary assistant, will you help animals that are brought in because of an emergency and need surgery?

Server: Of course, that happens all the time.

Supervisor: Who sets up all the surgical instruments for the vet to be able to work during that pet emergency?

Server: That will be me. The vet assistant. I'd have to get all the instruments cleaned and set up in just the right spots so the doctor can operate quickly.

Supervisor: When you're doing the place settings, did you ever imagine the utensils as surgical instruments, having to be clean, in just the right spot and quickly?

Server: Haha no, but I could see me day dreaming and doing that.

Supervisor: It's important to me that this doesn’t feel like just a pass-through job for you and simply a means to pay bills. I really am invested in making you successful here so you can be successful in your future. Next time you're doing place settings, if you imagine them as those surgical instruments, let me know. I want to see what comes out of it!

Does this sound hokey? It may, but ask yourself: Is doing this better than what I’m doing now?

“Is it more effective than what I’m doing now?” is a good self-check question with all communication tactics that may seem hokey at first, but can make an actual impact and make you effective.

Now, whether or not the server actually does this is beside the point. My guess is that the server WILL do this and it will help with her motivation and performance.

The really big deal here is that the supervisor took the time to sit down and have that conversation. Do you think the server in the situation will be more dedicated to her supervisor and the formerly boring and remedial task?

I’ve seen this done so many times with great RESULTS. I’ve coached plenty of managers on how to do this, and thrown them for some real zingers. Every time, they recover, get creative, and prove to me over and over again that ANY job, ANY task, can be tied into someone's passions, ambitions, and talents.

The real kicker is always the fact that the manager took that time, made that connection, gained the commitment of the person on the other end of the conversation, and became an advocate for their success.


Conley, R., & Zigarmi, D. (2019). Producing a passion play: Stop obsessing over engagement; instead focus on employee work passion and creating a high-trust culture where workers flourish. Workforce, 2, 42.

Curran, T., Hill, E. P., Appleton, P. R., Vallerand, R. J., & Standage, M. (2015). The psychology of passion: A meta-analytic review of a decade of research on intrapersonal outcomes. Motivation and Emotion, 39, 231–655.

Forest, J., Mageau, G. A., Sarrazin, C., & Morin, E. M. (2011). ‘‘Work is my passion’’: The different affective, behavioral, and cognitive consequences of harmonious and obsessive passion toward work. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 28, 27–40.

Zigarmi, D., Galloway, F. J., & Roberts, T. P. (2018). Work locus of control, motivational regulation, employee work passion, and work intentions: An empirical investigation of an appraisal model. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(1), 231–256.


Interested in including passions, ambitions, and talents (PATs) in your employee onboarding process, as leverage for employee performance and retention? Grab your free TurnBoot Snapset™ guide: 6 Unique Onboarding Elements for Small Companies with High Employee Turnover and Limited Resources.

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