American Idol judge, Simon Cowell, periodically remarks about the “it”
factor when assessing contestants. It seems to be one of those
nebulous, undefined and subjective attributes one either has or doesn\’t
have. And it falls into the category of you-know-it-when-you-see-it.
He\’s right. You do know it when you see it and that\’s true in the
workplace, too.

Some people call it passion. And while that\’s part of it, it goes
beyond the intense driving focus associated with passion. When I think
of the hundreds of people I\’ve hired in my career, there was one spark
that yielded an unwavering yes decision; one spark that made me stop
interviewing and put together a compelling offer; one spark worth
searching unrelentingly to find.

What\’s that spark? Desire. Not a person\’s desire for the job, although
interest and enthusiasm is always a plus. But their intention or aim;
their desire for greatness. I use that word carefully. I don\’t mean
greatness in the context of being a great or famous or distinguished
person, or climbing a hierarchy to achieve status, power or influence.

Rather, the desire for greatness I\’m referring to is tied to the seeds
of possibility sprouting through their talents and abilities. You see,
these people with the “it” factor desire to live their life\’s
potential. They aren\’t out to win. They\’re out to become the unique
person they are, to the fullest extent of their gifts. It\’s that desire
that fuels their drive, motivation and persistence. It\’s that desire
that keeps them learning and growing and stretching. It\’s that desire
that makes them exceptional.

You see, most of us don\’t desire our own greatness. We cheat ourselves
from becoming ourselves. We squander our unique gifts by copying other
people\’s approaches and styles. We mimic others\’ successes thinking
that if we follow their path or do what they do, we\’ll end up at the
same destination. But emulating others doesn\’t unleash our individual

People with the “it” factor know the only path to their greatness is
one of their own making. That\’s why you know them when you see them.
These are people who stand out like a tulip in a rose garden.
Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine defined them well when he
said, “I don\’t want people who want to dance. I want people who have to

But here\’s the thing. The “it” factor is not a limited edition
attribute. The desire to live our own greatness is available for each
of us if we tap into it. It\’s a personal choice we can make. That\’s
what winning at working is all about: finding your it factor.

Nan Russell Columnist, Writer, Instructor

Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, and speaker. Her career insights column, Winning at Working ( ) regularly appears on over eighty websites; and her life-reflections column, In the Scheme of Things ( is published in six states and Canada. Her work has been selected to appear in several anthologies. To sign up for Nan's free eColumn(s), or read more about Nan or her work, visit: