In the contemporary workplace, passion can be the secret ingredient that ignites effective collaboration and enables teams to achieve remarkable goals. But how can managers and recruiters distinguish genuine passion from mere enthusiasm in candidates?
Maëva Tordo, director of ESCP’s European incubator, the Blue Factory, and Tse Leng Tham, a postdoctoral researcher in human resource management at ESCP, explore the pivotal role of passion and talent in modern collaboration, offering insights into identification strategies and ways managers can nurture passion in the long run to create a workplace where collaboration thrives.
The leading role of passion in the workplace
Passion is an undeniable driving force that goes beyond the realm of competence and skill. In the workplace, it can significantly impact collaboration and help teams reach higher goals with enthusiasm. As one of our experts, Tse Leng Tham describes: “Having a passion means that we have a strong inclination towards an activity (or series of activities) that we love, find to be important, meaningful, and self-defining. In that sense, passion is interconnected to individual identity, meaningfulness, and growth.”
But how can managers and recruiters identify a candidate’s passion while differentiating it from a mere desire to convince an audience? As the director of the Blue Factory, ESCP’s startup incubator, Maëva Tordo is in charge of conducting interviews with aspiring entrepreneurs. In her experience, “a person who’s genuinely passionate not only cares about the core of what they do but also takes steps in that field without being pushed by someone else. You can usually tell their passion by the way they talk about their project.”
Maëva Tordo’s perspective also sheds light on the resilience that passionate individuals bring to their projects, enabling them to weather adversities: “Building a successful product can take a lot of time and effort. If someone loses interest when things get tough, it shows they care more about the business side than the actual subject.”
Building a successful product can take a lot of time and effort. If someone loses interest when things get tough, it shows they care more about the business side than the actual subject.Maëva Tordo
Identifying the right talents for collaboration
In the pursuit of effective collaboration, not only identifying passionate individuals but pursuing the right talents as well, is akin to assembling the pieces of a puzzle to create a cohesive and high-performing team. For Maëva Tordo, evaluating an individual’s depth in a particular subject matter is a cornerstone of talent identification.
“It’s hard to judge someone’s depth in a subject you know nothing about. When recruiting entrepreneurs, I often bring in experts for interviews so that we can truly assess a candidate’s knowledge and qualifications on a subject,” she explains, showing the importance for managers to surround themselves with other individuals when conducting interviews.
According to Tse Leng Tham, interviews are still relevant tools and can take two forms: “Typically, we use either situational or behavioural interviews. In a behavioural interview, we may ask questions about a candidate’s past behaviour to gain insights into their potential future performance on the job. In situational interviews, we inquire about how candidates would approach or handle specific job-related situations. To evaluate collaboration skills, we might ask, ‘Imagine you’ve been tasked with a complex project that requires teamwork. How would you ensure effective collaboration among team members to accomplish the project’s objectives in this scenario?’”.
We use either situational or behavioural interviews. In a behavioural interview, we may ask questions about a candidate’s past behaviour to gain insights into their potential future performance on the job. In situational interviews, we inquire about how candidates would approach or handle specific job-related situations.Tse Leng Tham
Other tools can be used for identifying the right individuals for collaborative roles, such as Belbin’s team roles test. This tool allows managers to recognise diverse behavioural attributes within a team: “Belbin conceptualises that we all exhibit different clusters of behavioural attributes which can be classified into 9 different team roles: Resource Investigator, Teamworker and Co-ordinator (social roles), Plant, Monitor Evaluator and Specialist (thinking roles), Shaper, Implementer and Completer Finisher (the action or task roles). The most high-performing teams often comprise a diverse concoction of behaviours and roles,” explains Tse Leng Tham.
This underscores the need for a multifaceted approach to talent identification—one that not only considers individual skills but also the behavioural dynamics that drive collaborative work: “It might be problematic if our team consists of only highly passionate Plants (highly creative problem-solvers) but no one has strengths in the action or task roles that help translate great ideas into action,” she says.
What are the common collaboration pitfalls to avoid?
Identifying the right talents for collaboration is a nuanced process that can be marred by common misconceptions and pitfalls. For Tse Leng Tham, collaboration in the modern workplace goes hand in hand with the concept of psychological contracts. As she puts it, “Fulfilling psychological contracts and the way we manage voice/silence at the workplace can have a huge impact on collaborative dynamics. When trust is eroded due to perceived breaches in the psychological contract, employees may resort to silence, withholding valuable information or concerns, hindering effective collaboration.”
Building and maintaining trust through transparent communication and upholding promises is, therefore, essential to fostering a culture of successful collaboration in any organisation.
Another pitfall to avoid is “hiring or staffing people like ourselves”, which can hinder the formation of diverse teams, as Tse Leng Tham demonstrates: “Our human nature often leads us to naturally gravitate towards individuals who share similarities with us. Whether it’s common likes and dislikes, a shared mother tongue, similar values, or even resembling behaviours, we instinctively associate likeness with safety and security. However, this inclination can potentially hinder our ability to construct diverse teams, with a wide range of strengths, weaknesses, thinking styles, and problem-solving approaches. Research demonstrates that while diversity within teams may present challenges, when managed effectively, it can yield a myriad of positive outcomes for both teams and organisations.”
Identifying the right talent is only the beginning; the challenge lies in sustaining their passion. Without a well-structured environment, organisations risk stifling talent and passion or losing talented individuals to other opportunities.Maëva Tordo
The delicate art of fostering passion in the long run
Recognising that passion isn’t a fleeting emotion but an intrinsic part of an individual’s identity can help managers understand how to create workplaces that allow passionate individuals to thrive. Talent identification shouldn’t end with the hiring process but should extend to designing work environments that sustain and nurture collaboration.
Hence, Tse Leng Tham’s emphasises the significance of aligning the workplace with an individual’s passion, stating, “Paying attention to individuals’ core values and having this in mind in how we manage individuals and design work can be key.” A workplace culture that resonates with employees’ values can ignite and sustain their passion for collaborative work.
Our expert emphasises the value of autonomy and job crafting, citing examples from industry giants like Google and 3M, where employees are encouraged to dedicate a portion of their work time to passion projects: “Companies like Google and 3M have implemented programmes that allocate 15 to 20% of employees’ work time for pursuing passion projects of their choice. Similarly, the Thrive@Hilton programme provides eligible employees with both time and financial support to pursue their dreams or simply recharge. While our daily work routines may not always align directly with our passions, such programmes offer employees the invaluable opportunity to re-engage with activities they are passionate about, such as participating in charitable work or volunteering at local schools.”
For Maëva Tordo as well, identifying talent and fostering passion extends beyond the recruitment and selection process. She suggests that organisations consider what happens after talent is identified and hired, emphasising the importance of consistency in work design, team dynamics, and reward systems:
“Identifying the right talent is only the beginning; the challenge lies in sustaining their passion. Without a well-structured environment, organisations risk stifling talent and passion or losing talented individuals to other opportunities. Creating an environment where employees can express, nurture, and share their passion is crucial. Cultivating informality and providing moments of freedom within the company can contribute to this goal, aligning with the current trend of encouraging a more flexible and collaborative work culture.”
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