Killer strategy: wearing your heart on your sleeve

"To wear your heart on your sleeve." It means to make your feelings apparent.

That should be a good thing, right? Yet when the phrase is used, it connotes a weakness in the person you are describing.

"Sue really wears her heart on her sleeve."

Why is that? In this age of radical transparency making your feelings known would seem to be  a desirable trait.

That aside, wouldn't it be awesome to know someone's passions? I'm not talking about hobbies (I don't mean to squelch your enthusiasm for your interpretive dance class or the amateur taxidermy you do.) I'm talking about causes and movements that could make our world a little bit better place to live.

Think about the times you've heard anybody speak passionately about something he or she believed in. It's infectious, right? You can't help but feel at least a little exhilaration if they are genuinely excited.

Shouldn't that be encouraged?

"That's not appropriate in the business setting."

Having passion is generally considered to be a good thing. Right up to the point you walk through the door of your place of work. In general, the majority of businesses are not oriented to tap into a collective passion of the people who work there.

Managers will tell you they want workers to have a passion. But it’s a passion for error-free spreadsheets and making sure the TPS reports are turned in on time (with a cover sheet included.) But that's more diligence than it is passion.

It’s hard to blame them. Having a purpose that drives passion is not something that starts as a grassroots movement and migrates up to leadership. So in its absence, workers simply punch in and punch out. Managers manage the metrics that they are being held accountable for hitting. We all sigh and say, “Well, that’s just how it is.” But is it?

What would happen if we all had a reason to wear our hearts on our sleeves?

What if everyone felt so strongly about the organization’s purpose that they let their passion show? What if we collectively wore our hearts on our sleeves?

What would happen? According to a post from Fast Company, "Purpose people are more engaged, more productive, better champions of the company, and tend to stay longer in their roles, according to the surveys. So companies should look to hire purpose-oriented people when they can, and promote them where possible."

Think about what that would be like. All these people showing up to work everyday and feeling confident – and even encouraged – about letting their passion show for the work they were doing. Knowing that the work was making a difference. Imagine how that could accelerate a business.

Organizations bring in efficiency experts. They launch employee motivation programs. Yet most miss the one thing that has the power to unlock untold potential. It’s embracing a purpose. A Big Audacious Meaning.

People are waiting for that kind of purpose. Yearning for it. And if we give it to them, we may just be surprised how proudly they wear it. Right there on their sleeve.

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at

PurposeDan Salva