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Getting encore performance at work

Thursday, June 22, 2017

If you go to Giza, Egypt, you can see the Great Pyramid. Considered by archaeologists to be the oldest structure in existence, at more than 4,500 years old, the Great Pyramid rises almost 500 feet (152 meters) into the sky and is constructed with more than 2.3 million stones, many of which weigh more than 2.5 tonnes. It is the sole remaining structure of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Great Pyramid’s features are so large they can be seen from the moon.

Even though the Great Pyramid was built 4,500 years ago, using primitive tools to carve the stone blocks, the 2.3 million stones were cut within 1/100th of an inch (0.254mm) of perfectly straight, and at nearly perfect right angles, for all six sides. It is said that not even modern technology can place stones of this size with greater accuracy than those in the pyramid. That’s the quality of the workmanship.

Until recently, people believed that the 20-year construction of the Great Pyramid was done by slaves under the harsh rule of the Egyptians. As it turns out, according to an Associated Press report dated Jan 12, 2010, historians determined that wasn’t the case.

The Great Pyramid was built by free men—farmers, really—who volunteered their time four months of every year because they believed in their leader and the purpose of the effort. A passionate and remarkable example of enduring workplace performance. You can pay people to work.

In a tough economy, you can practically force people to work. But, to achieve that remarkable performance requires passion on our part, and on the part of the people we lead.

How do we get such passion that creates remarkable performances in the workplace?

If you were watching a football game, like the one between T&T and USA recently, you would see the die-hard passion of fans in the stadium and many sports-bars around the country. How do we evoke a similar passion in our employees to cheer and get involved in the “game” of getting things done in the office?

Whether it is a football game or a Broadway production, we see the passion the players and performers evoke in us. If the performance is stirring and awe-inspiring, we want more of it. We call for an encore.

Can we get encore performances from our employees? This is the question Crestcom faculty member Mark Sanborn examines in this month’s session on how to improve workplace performance.

According to Sanborn, our passion for doing things stems from four sources: what we do, how we do it, why we do it, and who we do it for.

The Roman poet and author Virgil wrote, “Your profession is what you were put on earth to do with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling”. If that’s how you feel about your work, then it is likely that when someone asks you to do something you are more likely to perform the task with passion and diligence. But, not all our employees may have that perspective.

So, if you want to know how to motivate your employees, starting to get to know what their source of passion is perhaps a good place to start.

Sometimes their passion may not be entirely on the job they do at work. However, if you know what is the reason for them to come to work and earn a salary—be it the need to feed the family or send the children to school, or build a better home for themselves and their family—then you can have an insight into why they do what they do. This can be a motivating factor in leading them to do an even better work that can lead them to better pay and be able to better achieve their personal goals.

Passion is the difference between a great performance and an ordinary performance, between remarkable and average. Between one-time, flash in the pan, to encore performance.


But isn’t it a bit naive to expect that everyone is pursuing their passion every day, in everything they do?

Even the most successfully passionate people have to do things that aren’t exactly their favourite part of their job. And some days, we just seem to have less energy for our passion than others. Let’s face it, we all let ourselves slip into the doldrums every now and again.

This is a good time to remember that there are four sources of passion. So, when passion for what you do wanes, look to your other three sources of passion.

A big source of passion for many is who we do it for.

I imagine that every parent reading this article can identify with the “who” of passion. But who comes from other sources as well. Whether that who is the customer, whether it’s the colleague, whether it’s your spouse, your son, your daughter or a friend. Once you focus on who you are passionate about helping, you’ll find that when you put a person into the mix, you’ll find passion that you didn’t know you had.

Author Rob Markey reminds us that, “Loyal, passionate employees bring a company as much benefit as loyal, passionate customers. They stay longer, work harder, work more creatively, and find ways to go the extra mile.” They are the ones who exercise discretionary effort to go above and beyond the minimum required. If you have employees who are passionate about what they do, celebrate them and give them every opportunity to display that passion.

And, Good to Great author Jim Collins found in his research that, “The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think, and the way they work.”

So, if you want to build an organisation that will stand the test of time, like the Great Pyramid, surround yourself with employees who are passionate about what they do, how they do it, why they do it or who they do it for.

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