by Peter Guber: What’s the contagious disease you want infecting your organization?
One of the most passionate and highly successful visionaries I know, Mark Burnett, who pioneered reality television with a string of hits that includes Survivor, The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? and The MTV Awards, shared with my UCLA graduate students how passion inspires those around you. Passion, Burnett told my students, is transmitted through your level of energy. Burnett surprised everyone by exhorting that this energy level is even more important than creativity in succeeding or failing in business.
Because you can’t succeed alone. In our highly competitive and flattened world, competitive advantage is gained by inciting and exciting a team towards a common goal. The most highly effective and consistent way to catalyze others to buy into this goal is for them to be injected and then ‘infected’ with your passion so they become energized and spread what has now become their passion to others who catch it and pass it on.
When times are tough, and times are always tough in business, as a manager, executive, leader or coach, often your biggest challenge in gaining and sustaining competitive advantage is energizing your team and other stakeholders who have become disenchanted. You can’t let these individuals, who Burnett calls “energy suckers,” bring you down. “Energy suckers” are focused only on themselves and have no passion or zest – only negativity. They drain the energy from you and from everyone around you.
Threats, exhortations, facts and figures won’t combat these naysayers. Impassioning them through your authentic passion often does. Regardless of both my diverse enterprises, from entertainment to sports to new media to academics and our uncertain economic times, my “go-to” strategy to ignite viral passion, to overcome resistance and to generate break-through thinking is by telling the purposeful story. By “purposeful” I mean telling a story that results in a specific goal or call to action – buy my product, invest in my vision, collaborate more effectively, toughen up when times are tough, and so on. While a story based on firsthand experience is always preferable, those stories don’t always exist. You can also energize others by telling a story based on an incident you observed or was told, or take it from a book, movie or historical event.
The emotional resonance and “stickiness” of your purposeful story gives your audience something they can hold on to, get excited by, and pay your goal forward. Your call to action becomes inspirational rather than perspirational and spreads exponentially creating a ‘bug’ that you want all of your stakeholders to catch.