Heart MattersPassion is misplaced. Heart is misunderstood. Both are relevant in business, culture, and leadership yet so many get it wrong… me included.

There are too many calls to follow your passion, show your passion, and live your passion. Some may look at others and ask “why aren’t you pursuing what you are passionate about?” Others may say “I am passionate and you are not.” Another group may just tell you to “quit your job and start living your passion.”

Words are simple. Words also confuse and distract.

Turn to your heart. In business, heart is ignored. “Heart-based” sounds squishy. How can heart matter when a good bottom line is the best sign of a healthy business? Heart-based sounds weak. How can heart matter when competitors are making each sale more challenging than the last one?

Heart gets caged. Hard-core metrics rule.

A Small Town Story

A quick diversion. It is relevant. I grew up on a farm near a town of less than 600 people. Farmers and merchants do their jobs every day. Are they passionate? Knowing this is hard to tell. In my experience, they seem happy. I often ask myself “why do they do what they do when they could be doing something much bigger?” They could be doing something to really stoke their passion and create a something much more meaningful in a much bigger place.

The reality finally hit me. They live and lead with heart. Heart is about place. They are in a place to make a difference and their passion is exhibited in how they care for the land, their families, their customers, and their neighbors. By living and leading with heart, they create meaningful ripples that last many lifetimes.

The Small Town Generation: Millennials

Millennials are not a small generation. They made up 24 percent of the U.S. population in 2014, according to The Nielsen Company. The Pew Research Center says Millennials will bust past the Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation in 2015. With the large numbers, Generation Y or Millennials may return business and leadership to heart ways. Or, as a Deloitte survey reinforces, a return to people and purpose.

Although there is an essential mix of financial and innovation goals, the top three leadership priorities for Millennials are:

  1. Ensuring the long-term future of the organization (cited by 43 percent of respondents)
  2. Focusing on employees’ well-being (cited by 37 percent)
  3. Investing in employees’ growth and development (cited by 32 percent)

Millennials link purpose to culture and success. (tweet to share) More than this, as the Deloitte survey points out, Millennials connect purpose to confidence in an organization’s ability to grow, perform, innovate, and engage. See the chart below.

millennials and purposeSource:  2014 Deloitte Core Beliefs & Culture Survey

Here is my point. Just as in family farms and small towns, people are in the flow of their work because this is where their heart is. Heart delivers a certain comfort but it is not a laziness of leaving things as they are. Heart keeps yearning to do better next year – learn more, grow more, and serve more. Heart delivers a confidence to make the place we work and live better with each week, month, and year.

Heart embraces purpose and, in that embrace, good works happen. Good products are designed and developed. Good people become better people. Great people collaborate in renewed ways to solve problems and produce profits. Growing, profitable organizations serve many more stakeholders than just a few people at the top. This is heart-based leadership and business. This is Conscious Capitalism. This is the solid change forthcoming as Millennials pour into leadership positions.

The Pesky Problem of Passion

Returning to passion, how does it fit into all this? Passion is relevant when our hearts are engaged in the right place. Passion is not an end goal. After all, passion is about emotion and feeling, and our passion needs a place to be put to use in productive, meaningful ways.

Heart is the center of emotion. Our heart produces a flow of activity. If pure passion drives our actions, we may lose our center. (tweet to share) When our heart drives our action, we create a better center. While passion is a pursuit, heart is a place. (tweet to share) Getting our heart right will ensure we create the right place to get our passion right.

In business, we create a place. The business place manifests itself in the culture developed. A culture with a strong sense of purpose realizes that caring for and empowering people, customers, and other key stakeholders makes for a profitable experience and results. This is not a weak, unaccountable culture. Just the opposite. To keep a strong heart requires a healthy balance of rest, exercise, and nutrients. If a heart gets lazy, failure begins to happen quickly.

A healthy heart-based organization understand the role of accountability in purpose. A healthy heart-based business understands the role of profits in purpose. A healthy heart-based business knows collaboration and leadership begins with a strong core, not self-centered hierarchical top.

A Call to Get Heart Right in Business and Leadership

Older generations can learn from the new generation entering in. We can shake-up our misplaced notions and refresh our leadership ways and re-engage our heart to create a better place. By a better place, I mean a more conscious business and culture.

The call then is create, foster, and engage a:

Place to learn: How can individuals enhance their skills and refresh their mindsets? How can teams work more collaboratively in purpose?

Place to grow: How can individuals have greater influence in their work and impact? How can people move up, move across, or use their talents in new ways?

Place to lead: How can the leadership ability of individuals be tapped? What values should leaders embrace and exemplify?

Place to do good works: How can people be recognized for their good works, no matter where or when they occur? How can good works be extended outside the four walls of an office? How can the good works outside the office be encouraged and welcomed?

Place to leave things better than before: How can people feel like they have the responsibility and power to leave things better than they found them? This is continuous improvement on steroids! How can people really feel like they own a part of the outcome and be proud in their positive impact?

Heart is a place where passion develops and gains strength. Cultures that embrace heart will grow in purpose, profit, talent, and impact. (tweet to share) Leaders that embrace heart will strengthen their working relationships with different stakeholders and produce long-lasting results. The challenge for leaders is to create the right heart-based organization so all involved find a place to use their passion.

How can we engage our heart right now in the place we are? How can we tap into the Millennial sense of purpose now to create better places at this moment and forward?