What Happens When Team Members Work Outside Their Passion

March 20, 2019


I’ve spent a lot of time working with small businesses in start up or high growth mode. Sometimes it’s launching a whole new business and sometimes it’s just launching a new product into the world. The journey is usually fast paced, exciting with lots of adrenalin flowing.

The timeframes are usually tight, the budget is tight and everyone often finds themselves ‘doing what it takes’ to get the job done.  

Sound familiar?

Is it a good thing? Definitely!

Should it stay like that? Absolutely not.

Sometimes, no let’s just say often – in small growing businesses, you find yourself in an environment where everyone has to just ‘muck in’ and get it done. Perhaps it’s a start up, launch or maybe it’s just because a team member has left and someone else has to pick up the work load to keep the business going.

So while this is a good thing (yay for having a great team to share the load!) it is also a slippery slope to one of those ‘thanks but no thanks’ resignation letters you don’t want to get.

Let’s break it down and talk about what can happen.

If you have an engaged, energetic ‘can do’ employee, they’ll typically throw everything they can at it. They’ll work longer, harder, problem solve, up skill and do what it takes to get at least the bare minimum done.  Because they are committed, eager and bought into the business. And typically, as the leader, you’ll be extremely grateful!

However, at some point, the person will reach a stage where they will start to contemplate whether this new role, these additional tasks,responsibilities or activity is something they are or can be passionate about AND whether it’s likely they’ll be able to find their zone of genius. Their flow. Their rhythm.

They’ll start to assess whether they will ever actually enjoy doing their role again and if they’ll ever be able to do it efficiently.  And it’s at that point, based on the answers to those 2 questions, that things will go one of 2 ways:

1. They’ll feel engaged, positive, see it as a new career, an opportunity of a life time gratefulness OR

2. They’ll disengage, get uninspired and consciously or unconsciously consider their options and their path out the door.

The first one will be obvious to you.  It’s likely to be verbal – they’ll thank you for the opportunity, tell you they are enjoying it and you’ll see the sparkle in their eyes.

The second one – maybe not so obvious, especially if this is one of those really great, helpful positive attitude type of team members…. (yep the ones you always want on your team).

This is why it’s so important that you are having regular open conversations with everyone, asking them directly what they are and aren’t enjoying, listening and taking on board the answer and starting to make a plan to ensure you don’t loose that valuable team member.

The signs you are likely to see when their energy is turning:
Snippet of frustration

Venting about situations (albeit in a positive upbeat way)

Increased discussions about inefficiencies

Slower production of work across the board

More discussions about workload and prioritization (in an attempt to make you understand)

The same can really easily happen when you are hiring a new person into your team.  It’s natural (and usually correct!) to assume that everyone will not like a portion of their role, or there will be an element that is new or a bit frustrating for them.  You may even discuss it with the new employee, in their interview.

But it’s sometimes really easy for us, as leaders, to dismiss or underestimate how easy or frustrating some tasks can be.  Because how easy or not easy they are to us, is totally irrelevant when we are assessing if a new team member can, will or wants to do them.  

So although you may have touched on it in the interview, you need to still keep that conversation going and look out for any signs of frustration, as your newbie will go through that same cycle as an existing employee who has picked up and run with a new workload.

They’ll ….. Try > Decide … then > Opt In or Out.  

And if they are one of those great team players who live and breathe your business and embed your culture in everything they do, you need to avoid the “Opting Out” at all costs, through open conversations and some quick maneuvering to make an alternative plan.

Regular. Open. Conversations

Regular = At least monthly, structured + organised in advance

Open Conversations =  Encouraging feedback. Talking about what’s not great as well as what is. Making it OK to talk about the not-so-fun stuff.

So what’s the point of this blog?

People can and will only perform outside their passion and skill set for a certain amount of time.  

Ultimately, you need to get people into their zone of genius, operating at their most productive level. This usually means consciously enjoying their role and being able to openly share it’s challenges and discuss the future.

This, is what will keep those A Players in your business for the long term.


10 tips to building a team that actually drives your business dreams, profit

and personal freedom

Enter your details to receive a PDF emailed straight to you. We respect your privacy and will protect your details