Passion: A Post-Recession Commodity

Passion: A Post-Recession Commodity

jim3Everyone can agree that the past several years have been extremely difficult. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on something that can take a significant hit during a tough economy: passion. After all, when an economy gets lean, you can find yourself handling new responsibilities, doing less or – in some cases – doing twice as much, which can make it difficult to remain positive and passionate about your work. Whichever the case, one thing’s for sure – the expectations are the same of the business world: maximum productivity.

So, what does it take to rediscover your passion for work and optimize productivity? I’ve found a few simple steps to help reengage, energize and even thrive at work during difficult times.

1. Be confident.
2. Get involved; be productive.
3. Take risks.

In a lean economy, your self-confidence can take a real hit. That’s why it’s so important to identify and cultivate what makes you unique.

Passion is all about your personal brand and how intensively you believe in that brand. Believe in yourself. You have special skills and talents — make sure your coworkers and clients see you at your best. Realize that self-affirmation can bring positive changes to your capabilities and boost your results.

When I was living in Dallas, starting a career in advertising as a graphic artist, I had to remind myself that I was good at my trade and that I was going to make it on my own, even in a large, competitive market. This self-affirmation fed my self-confidence and nurtured my belief.

After learning my craft, I interviewed at this agency with the founder, Tommy Ramey. I had to sell my skills and knowledge in a skill set he knew very little about. He offered me a position, and 26 years later, I am proof that learning to embrace your confidence most definitely will pay off.

Today, we encourage our employees to be bold and confident. We have cultivated an environment here at Ramey that is nurturing to the innovative and creative spirit. As a senior team leader recently said, “Ramey has great karma. Our employees enjoy their team members, their daily working environment, and the freedom to embrace great ideas.”

If I’m ever feeling a bit uptight about work, rather than hole up in my office, I force myself to walk around the office and talk to coworkers. While I have a good sense of what’s happening on a day-to-day basis, I consistently find that everyone has something interesting that they’re working on or learning about.

Getting involved and staying involved is crucial to our business, so Ramey has procedures in place to encourage interaction and idea sharing. Our account executive team, for example, has a monthly “Lunch and Learn,” where they discuss successes and lessons on recent client projects. On the other side of the office, our creative team maintains an extremely active internal listserv where they connect. Each week, all creatives share at least one “cool” thing which can be anything — an artist, a photographer, an ad campaign, a video, an app. Anything. No longwinded introductions needed. Just sharing cool ideas.

The reason? Interaction begets ideas. Ideas beget action.

Interaction also has a lot to do with your environment. In the April 2013 issue of INC. magazine, author Issie Lapowsky described the productive office: Design Tips to Boost Employee Output:

• Make It Cute. Finally, a business case for watching all those adorable puppy and cat videos. Staring at cute images can narrow your focus and make you less error-prone.
• Turn Inward. Good weather is distracting, according to a Harvard Business School study. To boost employee output, try orienting workspaces away from windows.
• Build a Nap Room. Multiple studies show that napping anywhere from six to 90 minutes a day improves memory and learning.
• Filter Out Distractions. Colleagues wearing headphones are being productive, not rude.
• Choose Power Colors. Red rooms improve performance on detailed-oriented tasks, while blue rooms enhance creativity, according to a study out of the University of British Columbia.

Simple tweaks to your work environment can produce great returns in productivity. The more you put yourself out there, get involved, interact with others and become aware of your surroundings, the better your chances are that good things will yield surprising results.

Smart clients understand that big success hinges on big thinking, big insight and big goals. Naturally, big ideas imply greater risk, but also the potential for greater rewards. Here at Ramey, when we encourage risk-taking from each other and promote it to our clients, our work opens up new opportunities. So we encourage our staff to take risks, get outside their comfort zone, and explore new creative territories to improve upon an idea, strategy or customer experience.

This restless search for better ideas caused Ramey to stop a recent campaign for a large client in the middle and start all over again. Our team realized that the project strategy was good, but not great. Other agencies might have continued anyway, taking the path of least resistance. We went back to the beginning, re-strategized, and created a better campaign that was right on the mark. We were pleased, but, more importantly, the client was pleased. By pushing to develop the best, we all discover the unexpected, and the end result is more rewarding to the individual, team, agency and client.

Ramey was built on taking risks. When you dream big, there will always be bumps in the road, but that’s part of the journey. A failed idea is a learning experience that can lead to better thinking and improved strategy on the next project. Why else do so many famously successful people have personal stories that follow a familiar arc: risk, fail, learn and, in time, succeed.

A recent trade publication featured profiles of several newly successful marketing firms. One used to be part of a big agency conglomerate, but had spun itself back into a freestanding, independent firm. Another was a three-man team that also taught marketing courses at local universities. A third was a start-up of younger designers focused on working with great clients who had a similar vision.

All brought the same key ingredient to the table – a passion for doing great work every day. These people stepped out to embrace new opportunities. And they took the first step. Get started.

So, recession or no recession, it’s time to build yourself back up, put yourself back out there, tell yourself that you have what it takes and take a risk. You stand to gain a lot.

Rediscover your passion.

bio_jgarrison_tn Jim Garrison, Partner/COO at The Ramey Agency

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