Passion, Engagement and Professionalism

It's palpable.  You know it when you find it or more likely when it finds you.  I meet with many different firms and interview with principals, partners, owners, managers and I often interact with all strata of staff in many of those firms. I think we recognize our own traits in others. I identify with the passion of those who are engaged in their profession. 

As a young graduate it led me to self employment at age 24 to be more in control of my career.  It wasn't a money move, especially since we made none for the first year and subsistence level income the next 2-3 years.  I worked for several firms during my apprenticeship and was fortunate to have several passionate mentors and even one boss that was the catalyst for my start-up. Regardless of your career, from Starbucks Baristas to car mechanics, whether Architects, Engineers or Contractors - passion has a powerful effect on the businesses where passion and engagement live.  And it leads to strong professionalism.

The first thing I notice is that I'm doing more listening than talking when in the presence of an impassioned professional.  Their deep interest and engagement brings thoughts and ideas to their mind with both speed and clarity.  It's infectious and you can see it in people around them in how they react and begin to reflect that energy.  I think this is what makes good teachers and mentors great teachers and mentors. 

"Teach why you do what you do, what your drivers and motivations are for constantly improving your service and product to the client, and why you believe in your firm."

If you could bottle it or put it in a box, you could make millions - unfortunately it is not so. Passion and engagement are more intrinsic like DNAbut that DNA can be passed on by professional association and perseverance.  If you could sprinkle a few motivated and engaged folks into an office full of staff, their passion acts like a pebble dropped into a lake, with ripples of engagement larger near the epicenter of the drop - the passion is contagious.  Research shows that in most offices only 15-20% of staff are engaged.  Just imagine if we could bump that percentage to 30-40%.  It boggles the mind.

This is where staff training and education comes in.  Not the formal brick and mortar, what size nails and bolts to use type CLU education, but more top-down teaching and mentoring regarding the work of the firm, your work.  Teach why you do what you do, what your drivers and motivations are for constantly improving your service and product to the client, and why you believe in your firm.  Teach your vision for your purpose-driven firm.  Bring them into your story and be the pebble.

William M. Burwell is a retired Architect and Interior Designer whose career focused on corporate interior architecture in sole proprietorships, and partnerships from 9 to 120 staff.  Bill retired in 2014 and began Burwell Consulting a Firm Marketing and Management Consulting firm, to share the wisdom and experience of those 45 years   Bill writes articles sharing his experience in four keystone practice areas:  Marketing, Design, Project Management and Practice Management.  He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence. Check him out at