Monday, February 14, 2011

Closing the Passion-Gap: Believe in Strengths!

by Amy Sandvold

I am intrigued by Will's Strengths Project. I come at this topic from the perspective of a school principal. Working from strengths aligns exactly with what great leaders from your people's strengths. Yet what we claim to want and what we actually reward in practice are two very different things. It's called The Passion-Gap and it's filling our classrooms, boardrooms and workplaces with a lot of unhappy and unproductive people. Read this daily meeting agenda on Angela Maiers Blog to see a real world example: How Not to Empower!

Are you kidding me? Any creativity, inner passion, and strengths have fallen into the abyss of this gap after a daily schedule like that. I hardly believe that the leader that wrote this agenda wanted to stifle creativity and any passion-driven conversations, but that is exactly what this will do. You can call this "Passion-Gone-Bad." We have people going through the motions, following the rules and interacting with little personal meaning.

We have a canyon-sized gap between the people we have and the producers we desire. The one intangible, unquantifiable important variable that separates this gap is: PASSION!

Merriam & Webster define passion in this way: "intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction," and "a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept." PASSION is our inner strength that hooks us each day.

We define the Passion-Gap as this: The gap between what we are doing now and what we have the potential to accomplish if passion were a part of the equation.

The stuff going on in schools and in the workplace goes far deeper than frustration or lack of motivation, and way beyond simple boredom. We have to tap into our people's strengths and passions to sustain the energy, excitement, and love for learning and working for something meaningful!

What is learning like at your school? What is the workplace environment? What do our meeting agendas tell our people? Most important, how many people are passionate about their day? We can close this gap...

Parker Palmer, in The Courage to Teach (1998) pushes us to take action..."what we are missing right now is the will, the passion, and the courage to actually do and make those kind of changes..." (p. 173). Palmer reminds us that we know more today about how people learn and work than at any time in history. Closing the passion gap is attainable when we put the "PEOPLE" back into the equation. This can happen when we get to know what our people care about, know about, and are passionate about, and how to make it part of our learning and workplace---putting passion into practice. This leads me back to what William is dedicated to his STRENGTHS PROJECT, he is tapping into this very important cause. What happens when we put passion into practice and work from strengths? I look forward to following his project and seeing how we can put the People and the Passion back into what we do each day.

Amy Sandvold is a school principal & author and is passion-driven about learning. She has taught in both rural and urban schools and has worked for the Iowa Department of Education in the Federal Title I Program. She has authored The Fundamentals of Literacy Coaching (ASCD) and The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and Learning. You can follow her on twitter @SandvoldAmyM. To read more from other Passion-Driven Leaders, visit her blog at The Passion-Driven Leader.

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