WE’RE ALL PASSIONATE about something.

Finding a cure for cancer.  Cherry cheesecake.  Spending time with the kids.  Being inventive.

For everyone it’s a bit different.  But that’s the problem when you’re trying to get a group of people aligned around a common goal.

You can learn a lot by observing how volunteer organizations work.  In that case, people aren’t bound to the work by the promise of pay or job security.  It’s their passion for the cause which keeps them contributing their time and energy.

In the work environment, though, we seem to believe that we can buy employees’ loyalty with a paycheck.  You can, a bit, but that doesn’t buy their passion.  They often just focus on what they believe is the minimum to ensure continued employment and getting something out of their work.

You don’t need the minimum.  You need maximum engagement.

But you can indeed ignite passion.  In fact, that’s exactly the job of a leader.  And deep passion unlocks focus, energy, engagement, and productivity.

The problem is that, without attention, everybody’s passions take them in random directions.  You need them to align around a common direction, your shared mission, before you’ll see excellence from the group as a whole.

The larger the organization, the more work you have to put into this.  Otherwise, you’ll continue to hire people who end up doing … just the minimum.

Again, we can learn a lot from volunteer organizations about deep engagement around a shared mission.  Think through some of the groups that you view as making a contribution, perhaps Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Peace Corps, or World Wildlife Fund.

In each case, you have a pretty clear picture of what they’re about.  Not that you can recite the precise words they use to describe their mission, but that’s OK.  You’re still happy to join the cause along with many others who also share the passion.

How are you creating that sense of larger mission in YOUR business?