Editor's Desk - March/April 2012

Let's Get Personal

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

—Howard Thurman, Author  

What are you passionate about? I mean, what are you really passionate about? What is it the one thing you can't imagine ever giving up? The thing that would keep you satisfied if you were stuck on a desert island? The thing that without fail lands you in a state of "flow," where time and space no longer seem to matter—just the doing of the thing?

I ask because I think it's important for all of us to have that thing. That thing that "makes you come alive," as Thurman said. And I don't think it matters what that thing is, so long as it is there.

For some people, it might be football, or baseball, or hockey. For others, long-distance running. Or birdwatching. Or painting. Or 19-century English novels. Or perfecting their golf swing. Or hang gliding. Community service, photography, fly fishing, gardening, world travel, dancing, music, horseback riding— the list of potential passions is limited only by our imaginations and our self-doubt.

Now, turn the question on the people who work for you—those people you seek to motivate and inspire to perform at their peak every day that they are on the job. What are their passions?

Do you know? (The answers might surprise you. I've known an accountant who loved collecting vintage musical instruments, an IT director whose passion was skateboarding and a business consultant who spent her extra time on millinery, which is hat-making, if you were wondering.)

Do you think it matters?

Most people aren't lucky enough to be working in the field that inspires their deepest levels of satisfaction and enjoyment. That's not to say that everyone hates working. Far from it. Plenty of people settle into careers that suit their talents well, even if their job doesn't get them all fired up on a daily basis. But still, most people are not as passionate about their work as their employers might like. That's one of the reasons why we rely on incentives, rewards, recognition and similar tools. They help make up for any lack of passion by providing a little extra kick and excitement.

Now, what if you paired your incentives and rewards with the true passions that drive the people who work for you?

Tricky, to be sure, but I would argue that this is really the point of individualization. When incentive industry experts talk about the importance of personalizing rewards, of making rewards meaningful for the individual participants, they are getting at this point: If you really want your program and your people to click, you need a program that's going to inspire them. And if you want to inspire them, it helps to engage them via that thing—that passion—that means more to them than almost anything else.

It's not about offering a million different products to choose from. It's about knowing your audience. Not superficially knowing them. Not knowing their job title and responsibilities.

No, it's about taking a step further, to truly appreciate your human capital as human beings, driven by their own needs, desires and loves. This is one of the things that can separate a place to work from a great place to work. When you—or more appropriately, the employee's immediate supervisor—show people that you are interested in knowing what enthralls them beyond the office walls, you are sending a clear signal that who they are matters. And when they know that you believe in their potential—both in their daily work and their daily life—they're sure to reciprocate and deliver their highest potential performance.

And that's really what the point of engagement is all about, isn't it?


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,


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