Sunday, February 10, 2013

What is your passion?

If you don’t have one – finding one should be an objective. But first let’s continue with the “what were they thinking” segment of my blog posts. What was Citi, the credit card company, thinking when decided to route customer calls to a call center in the Philippines? Or more precisely, why would they route calls to a call center that has no ability to change or update information in the database in which they enter customer information? As you may have guessed I usually write this section about frustrating, stupid, un-lean processes. My woes began when I was enticed by an offer from Citi and American Airlines to accept the offer of a new business owner credit card to obtain the “free” miles included in the offer. I will not bore you with all of the activities and conversations that took place but after 1-1/2 hours on the phone, which included two calls to the Philippines and two to the East coast, I gained approval for the new credit card. I understand and accept call centers in faraway lands as a fact of life in our global economy but not giving someone, anyone, in that call center the ability to take care of the customer by allowing them to access and change data in the system they use daily is just stupid. After experiences like this, spending an hour and a half on the phone, I again remember nothing is really free. Now back to a different form of passion – one that engages you.

Being on the leading edge of the baby-boomer generation I am witnessing many friends and acquaintances retire. In January, I emailed a business associate and his Microsoft Outlook “out of the office” generated response noted, “I will be out of the office FOREVER.” The question he and others have to answer is what are you going to do with forever? No matter what your age having something you are passionate about allows you to add value and feel good about yourself. Just as life has cycles so do our passions – they can come and go or last a lifetime. For many, their work is a lifelong passion. When they stop working they seem lost. Relationships with co-workers along with the sense of value they brought to the world ends abruptly. They struggle to find a new way to make a difference in the world. At times they blame others for their state of confusion and relationships suffer. However passion is personal. It is a self discovery process that is ours alone and it can be a painful process until we make the discovery.

Traditional retirement activities like sports, outdoor activities, and travel (not to be confused with tourism) fill some of my days. I am thankful I live in the Chicago area where I do not have to play golf for 5 months of the year. After all I only play to stay humble! Outdoor activities like hiking help keep me fit and are important for that reason alone. Travel, which provides uncertainty and unanticipated interactions with new people, places, and cultures, can be a real joy. But I knew before I left my full time position those types of activities would not allow me to feel like I was still engaged and making a difference in the world. Therefore, I never intended to “retire” in the historical sense of the word. It has been three years since I stopped working full time and started my new career as a part-time consultant and they have been three of the best years of my life. Having passion for the continuous improvement of safety allows me to share it with others and in return build new and lasting relationships. Often when beginning a workshop I will ask the attendees to introduce themselves – name, company, position and one thing they have a passion for outside of work. When a respondent does indeed have a passion for something I love to watch their eyes and body language as they describe whatever it is. I see in them me when I talk about my new career or one of my other passions.

What does this have to do with lean? True lean leaders challenge and grow people (engagement). They provide their reports the gift of time (empowerment) to improve the business. This has a secondary effect. It allows their reports to grow as individuals. Empowerment leads to engagement and when people are engaged they find passion. A business full of passionate people is a competitive weapon. Each of us has a responsibility to empower and grow those that surround us in life. To watch spouses, children, coworkers, friends and reports grow as individuals and develop their own individual passions in life is one of the joys of life. I hope you have many passions and are inspiring others to find theirs. Stay safe!

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