If you read the biographies of passionate people who made huge differences in our world -- Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. -- many had harsh critics who considered them over the top or simply too intense. In light of their overall accomplishments, history may have softened those judgments. Being passionate about a cause is a good thing, unless others see you as someone with a non-negotiable agenda. Without some major social movement to your credit, fighting for what you believe in can sometimes give you a negative reputation.
My client Corey is one of those people. A Regional Sales Manager for a national cable company, Corey is brilliant in coaching her teams and helping them to refine their business and interpersonal skills—knowing when to push forward or pull back to maximize their sales. Typically, her teams exceeded their performance goals and regularly had the lowest turnover rates in the company.
As you might guess, Corey felt completely blindsided in a performance review when her boss suggested that she should curb her enthusiasm during interdepartmental meetings. He tactfully shared with her that the other department managers and several executives were becoming annoyed with her con¬stant role as the super-charged advocate. According to some people, Corey seemed to be overly eager (and relentlessly vocal) when representing her team, her ideas or her projects. Her take-away from the review was that enthusiasm was unwelcome in her environment. After that, Corey tried to curb her intensity but wound up feeling stifled and discouraged.
Without question, Corey’s energy and passion were primary factors in helping her land previous jobs and earn promotions, but now they seemed to be creating a major roadblock. Corey suffers from what I call Passion Pistol syndrome. People who have this professional blind spot struggle with finding the proper way to apply their double-barreled enthusiasm. They’ve frequently been rewarded for this attribute in the past, so they don’t always notice when it starts to misfire. In Corey’s case, she unknowingly moved from carefully targeted shots of enthusiasm to rapid-fire blasts. No matter what she intended, she was sometimes perceived as overly intense.
As I worked with Corey over time, she learned to make adjustments in her style and become more of a passion diplomat – not eliminating her natural enthusiasm but carefully focusing it to get the results she wanted. With increased awareness, she started recognizing the emotional triggers that sent her into hyper-intensity mode and discovered successful ways to disengage at those moments. When tempered with some new communication strategies, her passion became much more effective than ever before.
Author Sara Canaday is a nationally recognized leadership expert, corporate speaker and owner of Sara Canaday & Associates, a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas. (www.SaraCanaday.com) Her new book, “You – According to Them: Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career,” is now available at www.amazon.com.