Your Greatest Passions

By Dan Coughlin

It’s my belief that any person can make a significant difference in an organization. In order for that to happen, the person needs to know his or her assets for making a significant difference. In this article, my focus is on your passions. While your passions are intangible, they are a very real and critically important part of your ability to truly matter at work. I don’t think you can consistently make a significant difference in your work life unless you find a way to pour your passions into your work.

Your passions are what sustain you. They fuel you and energize you. You’re not going to consistently make a significant difference without having something that motivates you.

However, what drives one person to significance is far different than for another person. The key is for you to understand your three greatest passions. I’m going to explain thirteen passions that I have seen motivate some of the best performers I’ve worked with or studied. They are rewards, results, the journey, the dream, the purpose, creating something extraordinary, being a part of a team, leading a team, behind the scenes difference-maker, out-in-front leader, responsibility for others, sense of accomplishment, and contribution.

After you consider each of them I want you to be honest with yourself and write down your three greatest passions. The key going forward is to make sure your passions are being fed on a regular basis. If your passions are different than these thirteen, then write down your unique passions.


If rewards are your fuel, then you are passionate about your paycheck and the ways you can reward yourself with it. You want the nicest house and the fanciest car and a vacation home. You want the biggest title and the nicest office and the best recognition your company has to offer. These are what motivate you, and you’re not at all embarrassed to admit it. You like showing off your new boat or the monster tv you just purchased. You’ve earned them, and you want to enjoy them.


Results trip your trigger if you love to look back on the past quarter and feel the deep sense of satisfaction in what has been achieved. You measure your progress every day toward the objective you are trying to meet. When the actual results roll in, you get emotionally involved. You either party or you get depressed if the results aren’t what you want. The next day you are driven again by the desire to deliver better numbers on the next score card.

The Journey

The journey is your driver if what wakes you up in the morning is the actual doing of the work. You love what you do in good times and in bad times, and you can’t imagine doing anything else.

The Dream

You have a vision in your mind that you want to achieve in your lifetime, and that dream keeps you going day after day. The results can be good or bad, and you’re not thinking about the short-term rewards. Your focus is on the dream. Is there an ultimate result for your career that spurs you on every day?

The Purpose

Is there an underlying purpose that drives you every day? Is there something specific that you have dedicated your life to that makes you want to do your very best every day? Is there a purpose beyond making money where you feel part of something bigger than just yourself? Is that what’s driving you?

Creating Something Extraordinary

Do you want to make something truly amazing? Something that is completely breathtaking? Something that will change the future for lots of people? Is that what wakes you up in the morning and keeps you going all day?

Being a Part of a Team

Is your favorite thing to be a part of a great team where everyone is working together to support one another toward fulfilling a meaningful purpose or achieving a meaningful objective? Do you love being a team member as opposed to the manager of the team? Is your passion to play a significant role as a part of a greater whole?

Leading a Team

Perhaps your ideal role is to lead a team, to go out and identify the talents and attitudes you want on your team, to recruit those people, and to build an extraordinary work group for the long term.

Behind the Scenes Difference-Maker

Maybe what really gets you going is to create magic behind the scenes where no one knows the role you played in generating incredible success, except those few people who worked side-by-side with you. You love the feeling of being able to move from project to project in almost an invisible way where no one interferes with your work, and the results of that work speak for itself.

Out-In-Front Leader

If your passion is to be the out-in-front leader, then you are driven to lead an entire organization where you become the face and the voice of the organization, and where everyone from customers to shareholders to the media know that you are the person running the show. This desire to lead an entire company is what fuels you to keep working long, hard hours.

Responsibility for Others

You see your responsibility to your spouse, your children, your parents, and your community as the most important aspects of your life. You work hard at work to be able to provide for other people. You’re not focused on your title or material goods. You are driven to make sure that your aging parents are well taken care of and that your kids get a great education. You are willing to invest your time and energy into your community because you feel a sense of duty to others.

Sense of Accomplishment

The best feeling for you is to lay in bed at night and know that meaningful stuff got done that day. You hate the feeling of spinning your wheels and feeling that nothing worthwhile was actually achieved that day. You love to move projects forward, and you hate listening to whining and complaining and a victim mentality. What’s driving you is the belief that something really good will be accomplished today.


What matters to you is feeling that you mattered today. You have to feel that you contributed in some way at a meeting or in a private conversation or in an email or at a volunteer event. It drives you crazy to sit in a meeting for two hours and to have contributed nothing. You gain energy when you sense that you are actually adding value to other people in some way.

Identify Your Three Greatest Passions

That’s thirteen passions people get energized by. No one gets fuel from all of them. What I want you to do is to review the list and identify your three greatest passions. This will help you in the future to place your time and effort in a way where you will have the energy to make a significant difference for your organization. Here are the passions to choose from:



The Journey

The Dream

The Purpose

Creating Something Extraordinary

Being a Part of a Team

Leading a Team

Behind the Scenes Difference-Maker

Out-In-Front Leader

Responsibility for Others

Sense of Accomplishment


What three greatest passions for yourself did you come up with? Write those down. If your passions are not on this list, then write in your unique passions. This is another important part of your assets for significance.

About Dan Coughlin

Dan Coughlin works with business owners, executives, and managers on an individual and group basis to improve business performance way in a sustainable way. As a business keynote speaker, executive coach, seminar leader, and management consultant, Dan Coughlin teaches The Any Person Mindset. It is based on his belief that any person can make a significant difference in an organization, but no one is born with the traits necessary to make a significant difference. These are learned thinking traits. Visit his free Business Leadership Idea Center at


UX Mentoring

I recently read a short piece by Oz at UX Beginner and feel he is spot-on! The article is about finding a UX Mentor.

Key take-aways for mentors:

  • Help set expectations
  • Be on the lookout for opportunities to network your mentee
  • Be on the lookout for possible job opportunities for your mentee

Key take-aways for mentees:

  • Drive the relationship
  • Show initiative
  • Be accountable to your mentor

Thanks Oz for your insights and this timely post. Read the full article for more details.

Organizational Integration: How To Create a Robust Digital Culture – Pt. 2

(This is fifth and final post on strategic organizational integration. See the first post here.)

What To Do Next

Like me, poor collaboration and integration are what Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston saw time and again with the clients they worked with. Their book, Marketing In The Round, speaks to some of these very same issues about integration and collaboration. Where they are focused more on marketing the same principles apply across an organization.

How To Make it Happen:

  • Get everyone involved (including senior leadership)
  • Develop a strategy around your cause, purpose, and passion
  • Integrate and communicate about what’s happening and what’s needed –a new product, increased sales or donations, customer feed back, increased awareness, etc
  • Collaborate to create a tactical plan
  • Set goals and measures
  • Create a master calendar for sequencing
  • Refine your goals as you go

1) Discussion for your first meeting:

  • S.W.O.T. analysis of the organization (be brutally honest)
  • Who are your primary customers? (do the research)
  • What trends are affecting the organization? (get internal / external feedback)
  • How do you create value for your customers? (ask them, they will tell you)
  • Do we have anything innovative coming out soon? (why or why not?)
  • What challenges will we face as we move toward integration and collaboration? (be prepared)

2) Strategize
As you think about your strategies and tactics, make sure they are clearly defined. I see a lot of misunderstanding in this area.

Objective/Vision = an organizations desired end
Strategy = a plan of action designed to achieve the objective
Target = a specific value assigned to a goal
Tactics = a means to carry out the strategy

Objective/Vision = to acquire new donors
Strategy = use Facebook to increase reach and conversions
Target = 200 new donors in Q4 2013
Tactics = a $5-Off coupon for sharing weekly offers

3) Integrate and Communicate
Talk about what’s happening and what’s needed –a new product, increased sales or donations, customer feed back, increased awareness, etc.

4) Collaborate
How can marketing play into the plan? How can PR play into the plan? How can communications, social media, direct mail, the website, broadcast and others play into the plan?

5) Set Goals
One to three goals for each tactical area should be created. These goals should support one another and compliment not pull apart. You need to know the pros/cons of each discipline and what they bring to the table to set the right goals.

6) Create a master calendar
Visualizing and sequencing all the efforts will determine your success. Consider which tactics should lead and which should support and interweave.

7) Refine the goals as you go
We have instant reporting in our digital world. We do not need to wait months to analyze data. Review your results and evaluate what needs to be adjusted. Keep communicating with your organizational team.

Integration Done Right

Dietrich and Livingston identify 5 different levels of integration:

  1. Horizontal integration – across business functions like finance and sales. All conscious of how their decisions and actions affect customers.
  2. Vertical integration – this means the web objectives support higher level organizational goals and strategies
  3. Internal integration – this is communication, keeping everyone informed and motivated
  4. External integration – this means getting your venders and other external agencies around the table together and including them in strategies and goal setting
  5. Data integration – sharing data and information internally is critical to know how you are doing and what needs to change

Remember: Integration and collaboration are key – it almost never fails because it’s implemented early. It usually always fails because it’s implemented too late.

Organizational Integration: How To Create a Robust Digital Culture – Pt. 1

(This is the fourth installment on strategic organizational integration. See the first post here.)

To recap the previous posts, I have discussed the deadening impact of departmental silos on an organizations growth. I created phrases to help you remember the principles we have covered to this point. Remember, if you want to grow, say no to the silo. I also covered the affect of collaboration and integration on Next-Gen employee retention and productivity. The phrase being: When loyalty and productivity are KEY, the bigger picture is WE.

Now I am going to answer the question many have asked, “How do we get there?” What does it look like to integrate not just departments but, digital disciplines across an organization?

Organizational Change Takes Courage and Commitment

It takes bold steps to create the level of change that will be needed. As Seth Godin said:

“The best time to change your business model [or organizational model] is while you still have momentum.”  – from Tribes

Seth has a term I love – “Sheepwalkers”. He goes onto describe these types of organizations as ones that hire people to be obedient and to do brain-dead jobs with enough fear and intimidation to keep them in line. Sad. The truth is, when you hire amazing and collaborative people they do amazing things. Unfortunately, when you are trying to change an organization you will run into “sheepwalkers”. You can always tell who the “sheepwalkers” are, they are the ones shaking their heads saying change is not good and will never last because it’s way too risky. You may have to remove the sheepwalkers.

Andy Stanley is an author, prominent speaker, and the leader of North Point Ministries. Before North Point Ministries, Andy led the efforts of a  satellite campus in north Atlanta, Georgia. This campus was a branch of the church led by his father downtown. I attended the north campus when Andy announced he was leaving – with no job lined up and no staff. He only had a vision for a new way to “do church”. You can read more about this story in the book, Deep & Wide. Today, many of you may have heard of North Point Community Church. They have been so successful they started North Point Ministries to export content they have created and share what they are learning through their annual Drive conference.

Was Andy a “sheepwalker”? No. Was Andy fearful? Sure he was but he was also willing to follow the vision planted in his heart over 17 years ago. I have had the privilege to be amongst the founding members and seen the incredible work they are doing, not only in Atlanta but, around the globe because Andy was willing to be courageous, commit, and step out.

Don’t give in to the F Word – Fear.

What are you afraid of? Being wrong?! Seth Godin says, “The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.”

We need business leaders that are willing to create a culture of integration and collaboration.

It won’t happen over night but to leverage your employees, technology, and processes and to maximize the organizations we work for, we have to row in the same direction without fear. We have to optimize all our channels. It’s not about what media, department, or leader is best — its about getting the vision, message, and product out to people!

In the next and final post, I’ll share steps for creating an integrated robust digital culture.

Best Purchase I Made All Year

I love my new ScanSnap S1500M! I just do. This product paid for itself not 4 hours out of the box. Tasks that would have taken me days, even weeks, to do were accomplished in a short time.

Business cards that were piled up – done! Oh, and input into my contact manager! Conference manuals and notes stacked beside my desk – now digitized and searchable. Sweet! File cabinet print outs from previous projects are now converted to Word documents.No more paper clutter.

Did I say I love this tool?!

Save files as PDFs, searchable PDFs, Word, Excel, add to your contacts and in color or black and white. Everything I have wanted to do the Fujitsu designers and engineers seem to have thought of. Even if there is a paper jam, a window pops up showing me the last item scanned and asks if I want to rescan it after I clear the rollers and continue with my project. Nice work.

If you are an information hound and collect research, periodicals, newspaper clippings, business cards, and more – you have to get a Fujitsu ScanSnap. If you do, let me know what you think. If you already have one, tell me of your experiences here.

Saying No Drives Great Careers

By Dan Coughlin

Great organizations are defined by what they say no to. The same is true for great individual careers.

A great career is one where the individual made the type of contribution he or she believed was the optimal use of his or her talents, passions, and values and generated the types of desired outcomes that he or she wanted. In other words, the person generated both the desired input and output.

Manifesting such a career requires saying yes to a few key opportunities and saying no to a huge number of good, and possibly great, opportunities.

Dedicate Yourself to a Proposition

What’s up with Abraham Lincoln? There have been literally hundreds and hundreds of books written about him. These include the most introductory of children’s books to the most sophisticated of adult books. Why did he have such a memorable career? I think it all comes down to one thing. He dedicated his professional life, his career, to two propositions: “united we stand, and divided we fall” and “all men are created equal.” These two propositions guided his career choices and his decisions within his various jobs. In the end, I think that’s what made his career so successful: he remained committed to two very clear, important propositions.

What is the proposition that you are dedicating your professional life to? This will help you a great deal in deciphering what to do and what not to do in your career.

More than twelve years ago I dedicated my professional life to this proposition: mastering business basics drives better sustainable results. Not quite as catchy or life-changing as Lincoln’s propositions, but it’s been clear enough to help me make decisions on what to do and what not to do.

I then determined that the best contribution I can make toward improving performance in organizations across all industries is to uncover these business basics, these processes for improving results in a sustainable way, and then explain them in a user-friendly manner. In other words, I see myself as a teacher. Not a teacher who has all the answers because there are no set answers in business, but rather a teacher who causes people to focus on understanding and executing the basics of business at a very high level. In choosing to be a teacher, I simultaneously chose not to be a manager or an executive.

Before reading on, take out a sheet of paper. Decide on the proposition that you are willing to dedicate yourself to. Write it down. You may end up rewriting it many times over the months to come. With a clear proposition in hand, you can then decide where to place your time and where not to place your time. Your proposition will help you to choose which roles you will want to fill and which roles you will not want to fill.

Choose Your Opportunity Costs Carefully

My third-grade son, Ben, came home with his folder of papers. One of them said, “Explain the idea of opportunity costs using the example of Pizza Hut.” Ben smiled and said, “That’s easy. I like sausage pizza and I like pepperoni pizza. If I choose the pepperoni pizza my opportunity cost is the sausage pizza.” What a great explanation. He learned something valuable that day from Mrs. Edwards. When you choose something that means you are also choosing not to have something else.

As you go about building a great career always take the time to clarify your opportunity costs, the things you are choosing not to have. If you choose to work as an employee, then you are choosing not to be an entrepreneur. If you choose to be an entrepreneur, you are choosing not to work for someone else. Both choices can be good, but you can’t have both simultaneously.

Fifteen years ago I was considering starting my own business. I was a full-time, tenured teacher at a very well known high school in St. Louis. I wrote down my opportunity costs if I left, which included the following: really wonderful students would no longer just show up for me to teach, I would not have colleagues to bond with between classes or at lunchtime, I would not have a guaranteed paycheck every month or a guaranteed job for life, I would not have three months off in the summer time, and I would not have my curriculum to teach handed to me. To me that was a lot of opportunity costs to give up. Only once I became comfortable with what I was giving up was I able to go out on my own. However, once I left I didn’t go back and try to teach at the high school while trying to run my own business.

I know people who did just the opposite. They were entrepreneurs and chose to teach or to work for someone else. They had considered their own opportunity costs of not running their own businesses and they chose to work inside an organization. My point here is you have to choose what you think is the best route for your career. I’m just encouraging you to step back and clarify what you will do and why you will do it and what you won’t do and why you won’t do it.

You have to choose your opportunity costs as much as, and maybe more than, your opportunities. As you consider your next career move, take out a sheet of paper and write down all the things you are not going to get as a result of going in the direction you are considering to take. Make sure you are comfortable with what you are giving up BEFORE you get comfortable with what you are going after.

The Choices of Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose is my favorite interviewer. I knew who he was, but I didn’t really study him until I recently read an article about him in Fortune magazine. Here it is if you want to read it:

The proposition that Charlie Rose has dedicated his career to is, “wanting viewers to feel like they were eavesdropping on a conversation each night – fully engaged if not actually participating.” He honed his craft over a number of years until he got the opportunity to do The Charlie Rose Show on PBS Television in 1991.

He had walked away from a well-paying program called Personalities in 1990 because he wanted to do a more serious talk show. He also said no to a full-time anchor slot on Sixty Minutes II in 1996 that would have earned him a great deal more than he makes on his own show on PBS. He turned it down because he felt doing his own show was, as he said, “the chance to find your own reality – for yourself, not for others, what no man can ever know. In the end I have not finished the journey.”

In saying no to a variety of opportunities, Charlie Rose defined who he was and who he wanted to become. He wants to do serious interviews with people on important topics without any pretense whatsoever. And he does it very well. I encourage you to invest a few hours at and soak in the lessons that are extracted during a variety of his interviews.

Actively Accept Limitations and Consequences

At some point, and I happen to think this is as good a time as any other, you have to get comfortable with the ideas of limitations and consequences. You can spend your whole life trying to be everything in the world and keep chasing one career dream after another. Or you can say, “I’ve chosen this path for my career. Here is the general path where I believe I can make my greatest contribution.” And then be ok operating within the limitations and consequences of the career you have chosen. Actually, there’s real power in deciding on the limitations you are going to accept. It means you are willing to get seriously focused at work that you have chosen to pursue.

In studying hundreds of really successful people, I’ve noticed that the best of the best stick with their chosen path. What’s Steven Spielberg doing these days? He is still making movies. What’s Oprah doing now that she’s made billions? Still interviewing people to find out what they have to offer her audiences. What’s Steve Jobs up to? He’s working on guiding Apple to make electronic technology incredibly useful for consumers. What is Charlie Rose at the age of 67 doing tonight? He’s interviewing one of the world’s movers and shakers. Now that Bruce Springsteen has turned 60, what’s he doing? Putting on great concerts. What’s my mom doing today at the age of 80? She’s still being a great stay-at-home mom as she has been for the past 54 years and caring for other people.

Be OK with who you are and who you are not. Stop wasting time always wanting to be someone else and always wanting a different career path. To manifest a great career you have to stick to the path of your own choosing, and not feel bad about all the paths you have chosen not to pursue. In reality, the more you consciously say no to alternative paths, the more sincerely you say yes to your life’s work.

About Dan Coughlin
Dan is a student and teacher of practical processes that improve business performance. His purpose is to work with executives and managers so they achieve great performances. He is a business keynote speaker, management consultant, executive coach, and author of three books on management performance, including his newest, The Management 500: A High-Octane Formula for Business Success (AMACOM 2009). Read Chapter One from this new book free of charge. Dan’s clients include Coca-Cola, Abbott, Toyota, Prudential, Shell, Boeing, Marriott, McDonald’s, and the St. Louis Cardinals.