Passion Sundays

VP at Google explains how cooking classes increases performance

It’s important for a company to invest in helping people find passion, and that investment is not about money.

It doesn’t matter if your team’s passion is related to work or not, when you give people the opportunity to apply their passion they will surprise you! Cooking classes anyone?
Google! Do we need to say more?
Yvonne Agyei is the VP of International People Operations at America’s #1 employer; she shares how to bring passion to your organization to enhance performance.
She says, “It’s important to invest in helping people find passion, only then you see magical things happen. If people are not passionate then they will do the bare minimum, when you give people the opportunity to apply their passion they will go above and beyond.
Such an investment is not related to money, a company has to be truly interested in bringing passion to work and then it’s about providing the right environment for people’s passion to happen. Cooking classes work for me.
Yvonne says “It doesn’t matter if your team’s passion is related to work or not, they can do cooking classes or volunteer at a community center, that’s how innovative ideas come out and it makes people love their work environment and their team more.”
So if you are looking to make your company the next Google then this is interview is a must for you. Once you watch it share it and spread the love.
Live Passionately
Moustafa Hamwi

Welcome back to Passion Sundays!
Our guest today is phenomenally passionate, engaged, a bit quirky and a bit crazy and works for a company that matches those values. Yvonne Agyei.
Moustafa: What’s your title?
Yvonne: I am the Vice President of International People Operations. I know, it’s a lot.
Moustafa: Yvonne Agyei is the Vice President of something related to people in Google. And you’re going to love speaking to her because when we say “passion”, probably Google is one of the most passionate ones.
Yvonne: Thank you!
Moustafa: How are you? You are well?
Yvonne: I am well, thank you! Yeah Yeah!
Moustafa: Superb! So, as you have figured out by now, we are talking passion.
Yvonne: Yes and I can see that you are very passionate.
Moustafa: Thank you very much! So, how important is it for people, forget organizations, to find passion in life?
Yvonne: I think it’s very important. Nobody wants to be in a relationship or you don’t want to be working in a place that you don’t feel passion, right? I think when you feel passion, it naturally comes across. You love what you’re doing, you’re enthusiastic about it and you know, it just doesn’t feel like working, right? So, if you’re passionate about your work, you’ll do and it doesn’t feel like work.
Moustafa: So, that obviously brings us immediately to being passionate about work. How important is it for a company to invest in people’s individual passions?
Yvonne: Well, I think it’s really important because if you get people who are not passionate about what they are doing, they are not going to bring themselves to it. They won’t be creative, they won’t innovate, and they’re just doing the bare minimum. Right? We find that when people are passionate about what they do, they will go and they will scratch themselves. That’s where you see really magical things happen, is making sure that people are in roles that they are passionate about.
Moustafa: Okay. What if their passion does not relate directly to business?
Yvonne: I think that’s ok! At Google, we actually have a project we call 20 percent time and it means you can spend basically a day out of the week working on anything you want. It doesn’t have to be work related, we would love it if it were but that’s how we get new projects, right? People who decide they want to work on something on their own that they are passionate about. If we find that it’s good, we can find a way to bring it in to work.
Moustafa: Well, the obvious answer here, I am going to play the devil’s advocate. I am going to push back and say- Well, you know what, we’re not Google, we’re not there yet. You guys have mastered a new game, old school style companies that might become dinosaurs in the future but today they are still here and they are big!
Yvonne: Yeah! Yeah! But I think it’s important to invest, it doesn’t require spending a lot of money, right? Somebody could be passionate about, you know, volunteering at a community center. Why not give them a few hours a week to do that? It makes them happier about what they do and then they love the company for, you know, supporting them to do something that they are passionate about. And so those are the things we bring at Google. If somebody’s passionate about cooking, they have an opportunity, they can set up and lead a cooking class. That has nothing to do with work. We give them the infrastructure, we give them the support but it’s bringing that to work and being able to share your passion with others and we find that people love what they are doing and then they love the company.
Moustafa: Okay, so now we find our passion, company invests, we come and do passion work and we get everybody passionate, how does somebody stay motivated? Because also, everybody’s got that dream, it’s like- “Okay, now I have found my passion, everything is going to fit into place and I have nothing to do.”
Yvonne: Yeah! Yeah! Now you do have to focus. I mean, we say that, you know, you cannot have 50 thousand people all going in different directions. And so, this is where the leadership sort of comes into place, helps people find how to direct their energy and their passion towards a common goal, right? So there is a time to do kind of your own thing and then there is time to, you know, do what we need from you for the company. And we find that people are really good at being able to balance both and we give a lot of trust to people, and like I said, we invest in them and good things happen. It’s really amazing, we’ve been very lucky!
Moustafa: You mentioned something very important, obviously about we invest in people. How important is it for a leader, obviously with a role like yours IQs the title was so important and big, I couldn’t even pronounce it! It may have something to do with people. How important is it for somebody who’s a leader to invest in their own passion and to be a passionate leader rather than just a leader?
Yvonne: That’s right! That’s right! You have to believe in what you’re doing and for me that’s where the passion comes in. My passion is- I love to travel; I love to meet people from different cultures, I love learning different languages, I just like being surrounding by people who are from different environments and so, I was able to turn that into my job. Essentially, Google is allowing me to develop this passion and so even though I have a long title “International People Operations” it just means that I support all of our international offices. So, I get to bring my passion of being able to come to a place, like Dubai, I spent the day at our Dubai offices. This is my first time here and just meeting with people, I really love that and I’m doing something for the company as well. So, it’s allowing me to combine that. And so, I allow my team to do the same thing, right? So, I ask them what are they passionate about, what is it that they care about and we find a way for them to bring that passion to their work.
Moustafa: So, if we would say, we take you out of Google and would challenge you to put you in an old school type oil and gas company, would you be able to apply all of what you just said?
Yvonne: I think so! I think if the company’s willing to let me do that. Oil and Gas is the perfect example because they are global companies. They are conglomerates. They have operations in so many, you know 100s of different countries and if they think it’s important and the thing for me is- How are you connecting people? Maybe you are headquartered in London but you have people in Africa, you have people in Kazakhstan, you have people in Russia, how are you supporting those people and how are you bringing them? That’s a role that I can play at that company, even though it’s a completely different industry.
Moustafa: Yeah! I can imagine! That’s actually amazing. So, if you now would start that process, how long will it take before you see the fruits because obviously this is a bit of a farming process.
Yvonne: Yeah! Yeah! I actually think you’ll see that immediately. I think when you bring people and you give them freedom and you let them apply their passion, they will really surprise you. People will go above and beyond. You’ll see people who come to work because they love it and you’ll see improvements in their performance. And, we have measured that, we have seen that. When people are in the right role their performance goes up. If they are in a role that’s not a good fit for them, their performance maybe okay and so, I think you see actually, pretty immediate results.
Moustafa: Amazing! Superb! I love it. You are very passionate obviously and that’s exactly how we want everybody to be.
Yvonne: I feel really lucky it doesn’t feel like work to me.
Moustafa: To be clear, it is a lot of work!
Yvonne: It is a lot work!
Moustafa: It is a lot of work! And as you might see we are actually doing the interview on an iPhone in a hotel lobby, where she’s already been talking a lot and she’s about to go to the airport. And she is so passionate that she didn’t say, you know what, I need to chill. She said, actually I want to do this interview. So, thank you very much for all of this passion and for sharing with all of the world how to be passionate.
Yvonne: Thank you for the opportunity!
Moustafa: And hopefully we can make everywhere a Google, you know, working together and doing some passion work in Google.
Yvonne: Yeah! Let’s do that! We would love that! It was so nice to meet you.
Moustafa: Thank you so much. Stay passionate and stay focused.
What do you think? I would really love to hear your opinions. If you’d like to stay engaged, subscribe to our social media channels. And if you want even more valuable interviews and tips and tricks, how to live passionately, then go to and subscribe to our Passion Sundays newsletter.
Until the next episode, live passionately!

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Hi, I’m Moustafa

Dubai’s real-life “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.” On a one-way ticket to India, I’ve gone from meeting a Swami out of 13 years in caves, to natural healing from a disease to become the Passionpreneur. I’m an international speaker and coach helping people find and pursue passion.

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