Personal development

When passion is dangerous at work

I’ve had personal experience and witnessed too many highly-passionate people risk their relationships, risk their reputations, and neglect to appreciate the people around them in order to pursue a dream. I’ve seen too many fail–because their focus on the future makes them oblivious to the present.

There is so much written about pursuing your passion at work. There is a health warning that comes with it in the corporate context. In the wrong environment, over used passion is seen as emotion that represents in an imbalance in the person. In startups and entrepreneurial organisations it is celebrated and rewarded.

So why the extremes of perception. I have worked in both and seen it from different lens.

Corporates are looking for calm leaders, who never get emotional or passionate, (may be beneath the surface) just calm and considered. Gravitas. In start ups and SMB, passion is seen as essential to drive success and the team.

When passion is dangerous at work?

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Why context is so important in delivering a message

My coach always reminded me “context equals meaning”. Without context you message is lost and we leave the audience confused.

Context is so important in conversation and in delivering a message. I observe it in others but rarely identify when I am not doing it! It struck me when seeing one of the leaders from our company talking about having the critical conversation the conversations we avoid, it was a great message to leaders, but it lacked authenticity and context as there was no personal story. 

From this I learned  what was missing from my presentations. When delivering the vision for my team for the year ahead at a recent kick off I used a story to describe a customer who has mortgaged their house to set up their business, the stress of a growing payroll and the responsibility of collecting enough cash to ensure all your staff get paid, they have a billing issue that drags on for 6 months and the stress of this large bill which is incorrect. The message: Take extra special care with your customers, get the wider team involved to resolve critical issues for the customer. The feedback from the team was incredible, they said no one has made them think about the customers perspective and what they are dealing with.

Key learning is always spend more time on the scene setting, background and why you want the audience to listen, all these give context to your message.

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Great Leaders ask Great questions John Maxwell

Just finished reading this amazing book. Thought provoking and some sage advice on Leadership. John’s curiosity in others, inspires great questions. This is a must read for anyone looking to grow in their career or find telling is their default mode or fail to influence others. Great questions are the key to influence.

The highlight: the structure of each chapter, the great questions and answers were insprirational. The latter sections on succession, how much time to spend on leaders was particaully useful and validated many on my own thoughts.

Did not agree with the section on trust with a leader, that there is no going back. Great leaders forgive and hold no grudges. It’s never personal.

Forgiveness is critical to being a great leader, there are many times when I have almost given up on someone and seen them realise what they need to do to change the future. My experience is that great leaders believe in others and allow people the room to reflect and grow. Poor leaders, see this person is not performing its reflecting on the leader and take action to remove them. Self serving leaders have a short shelf life as staff turnover is inevitable. They are also seseptable to yes men that never deliver results, because their is no diversity of thought.

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7 Steps to Gravitas

Where do I start? I have had feedback from leaders I have worked with, that I smile too much, fidget, talk too much and don’t have gravitas. This has come from many sources over many years. A few years ago I went on a short course on executive presence and the teacher used examples of Gravitas and we discussed leaders such as Julie Bishop. It’s not just her dress, but its presence without words, when she speaks she holds the room.

Anjulie Bishop ex colleague of mine Marina observed my restlessness and how distracting this was. She suggested a hypnotist. I was taken back as I did not believe in hypnotherapy, determined to address this consistent feedback I went and too my surprise the process built awareness and with awareness came the ability to control my movement. I am a lot better, and if I exercise and don’t drink too much coffee all is good! I don’t smile, unless someone says something funny, hard when you are a happy person! When I speak I ensure I don’t waffle, concise and to the point. I don’t talk too much, only when needed, a challenge when you are a chatterbox!

Over a year ago I was interviewing and a lady very smartly dressed she sat down and started talking, laughing at herself in a gregarious way. I was looking in the mirror and in an instant I understood, why I did not have gravitas. The impulsive talking, need to be liked and a laugh that would scare anyone, was a far cry from gravitas. The similarities were scary and as hard as it was to concentrate on the interview, I could not get pass the impact that the characteristics had on me. It devalued the individuals capability and made it difficult for me perceive her in the way she would have hoped.

Here is the dilemma, when we are not our true self, we feel we that we lack authenticity and that can also be perceived badly. I made a decision to change my behaviors and focus on building gravitas as I do not have anything to lose and I have a lot to gain. The journey is a good one and  worth the effort. You have far more impact in business. When I prepare for a meeting with senior personnel I think of Julie Bishop.

What to practice:

  1. Sit still
  2. Smile at appropriate times
  3. Don’t transmit
  4. Leave your ego outside
  5. Answer questions,ask questions
  6. Active listening
  7. Dress the part

Key message: Practice Gravitas if you want to succeed in your career.