For better or for worse, passion is a driving force.
You’re sitting in it like you would a brand new, fully loaded Jaguar. The road ahead is calling to you – tempting you. Put the petal to the metal and find out just how fast you can go. The exhilaration is half the prize, the other half to win the race!
The power of being a passionate person is real. You see nothing to the left or to the right – only what is ahead. Your goals are constantly moving closer as you put in the hard work, hour by hour, day by day.
If you’re one of these people, you might find that you struggle in the workplace. The team around you just isn’t getting it. They don’t put in as much work…and they don’t appreciate the sacrifices YOU make to pick up the slack.
I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve wholeheartedly dedicated myself to the success of companies, and somehow ended up sidelined anyway. After some reflection, I’ve discovered some secrets to survival in the workplace.
Even just last year, I may not have been open to some of the wisdom I’m about to share. I learned it the hard way, and, if you’re still reading, you may just be ready, too.
From my personal experience, here is how you can avoid passion and career issues in the workplace.
Adjust Your Expectations
As a driven, passionate person, you have very high expectations for yourself. If you work late at night, skip lunch when you’re busy and pick up other people’s slack – you can sometimes fall into a pit where you silently judge others who don’t.
At the risk of sounding counter-culture, you should lower your expectations and praise others more than you praise yourself.
“Did she just say LOWER my expectations???” Ouch, right? I know. But hang in there with me.
One of the most beautiful women I know (inside and out) is named Heather. Heather is ALWAYS on time. Four kids and all!! I envy how orderly her life seems, because I tend to overcommit myself and run late often.
But what makes Heather really special is that whenever we go somewhere and I or someone else is running late, she is so gracious about it. She never rolls her eyes or throws in her two cents about how being on time is really very simple. Rather, she responds with, “It’s no problem…please don’t even worry about it! I SOOOO get it.”
The problem with holding extremely high expectations is that they’re based on your natural strengths and your perspective of the right way to do something. And guess who gets left frustrated? YOU!
Like Heather, you may truly have the wisdom someone else needs. But if you value your relationships, you’ll be very considerate about how and when you give that advice out.
Hint: The right time is when you’re ASKED.
It doesn’t work to place pressure on your team to compete with you or even to match you. Humble yourself. Rarely mention how you were up late with this or that and how you spent 70 hours on said project. That just makes you…well, unattractive.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
Let’s talk about loyalty. What does it mean to be “loyal” to your company? Certainly you will honor your NDA and never try to steal from the company.
You will speak highly of your workplace when you are conversing with those who are on the outside and help to build a positive reputation. You will support your team in any way you can and root for their success rather than competing with them.
But what about your networking efforts…should they be all for one and one for all? I would argue that the answer is no.
Unless the company is specifically paying you to attend an event, etc, you can promote yourself. You can let people know what YOU do. You can build your own personal contact list.
Why do this?
Sometimes doors open, and sometimes they close. No matter what the reason, you may not stay at “Company X” forever.
So create you own blog, treat your LinkedIn like you’re a PERSON (not a corporation) and build friendships with people in industries that you’re interested in.
Keep lining up the doors so that if one closes, there are a few others you can easily knock on.
The Art of Biting Your Lip
Let’s face it – passionate people are emotional people. We care a lot. We speak our minds (which are made up quickly).
Our mouths can get us in trouble.
So…practice biting your lip. When you consider what your response will be, think about the person you’re talking to and adjust to them.
It’s okay to be sensitive rather than direct. It’s okay to sugar coat things. If you’re the kind of person that comes off as a “know it all” (admit it, we can come off that way), then this is a survival skill for you. No joke!
If you become a chameleon and learn how to speak the languages of your different team members, you’ll keep your job longer and have far less drama.
And you DON’T have to stop speaking your true opinions! You just have to begin with validating the other team member(s) and SINCERELY considering their thoughts and opinions.
Here’s a trick: Say YES. One thing I learned recently is that if I disagree with someone, the best way to tell him is by first making a “yes” statement. What about his point is true, right or valuable?
Find that thing and make sure that at least half your statement focuses on how you are in full agreement.
Sometimes in a conversation like this, there won’t be resolve. But let’s face it…the two (or ten) of you were not going to agree anyway.
The difference is that with this approach you left them feeling respected and they are 10x more likely to walk away and consider your point than they would have been if you had been cut and dry about it. (Yes, I made up that statistic, but I’m pretty sure it’s true).
And last but not least, remember why you have two ears and one mouth – because you should listen twice as much as you speak (A special thanks goes out to my mom for that little nugget).
Doing Things Right Won’t Always Make the Boss Happy
If you’re not the boss, you will have to be okay with being in the passenger seat at times. Sometimes you will pitch something or share an idea that you just KNOW is brilliant.
And sometimes…the boss will not agree.
Part of being a good team member is operating by “majority rules.” This can be really tough if you are the only expert in your field and no one else on the team truly understands what you’re trying to do. You’re the minority…what can you do?
Remember, though, relationships are more important than any other aspect of your job.
Learn to clearly state your objectives and strategy. If they get shut down, humbly accept what gets thrown at you. Work just as hard doing things “her way” as you would “your way.”
If the boss’ strategy fails, you get to re-pitch your ideas. Do it without even mentioning that you already knew this would be the outcome.
Your time is valuable…but people are more valuable. Your job is to balance getting results by using your expertise AND honoring those above you on the ladder. It’s tricky business, so mind it carefully.
Project Management is Key
From a practical standpoint, proper project management is one of the number one skills you should master in order to be successful in your current position.
When projects are managed in a healthy way, your team has the freedom to enjoy their jobs without constant pressure and stress.
Here are three tips to building a well-managed environment:
Set Realistic Deadlines
If you are the one divvying out projects, you’re used to setting deadlines. How can you make them “realistic?”
It’s easy, just ASK! As an example, I might have a 30-minute meeting to discuss a project in detail with a team member who is assigned to it. I will answer all questions and then, once they understand the depth, I’ll ask, “Ideally, how long do you need to finish this project?”
Additionally, as a manager, I’ll always have their backs when I go to the higher ups. Never will I throw them under the bus as the “reason” we didn’t finish on time. That’s on me.
Make Priorities Crystal Clear
Too many times I’ve sent a new, urgent project to someone only to discover hours (or days) later that they were putting that project off until they finished their current work.
A lot of times people will ask what the priority is. This should never be the case. You should clearly state (on the phone or in person) which project you would like to be prioritized.
Don’t leave any room for confusion!
Go Over Relevant, Specific Components
Again, your team members shouldn’t have to come back to you with a lot of questions. If they are, that usually means you haven’t done your job.
They should know if they have a budget and what it can be allocated for. They should know what the goals are and/or who the audience is for their project. They should also know how much time you expect them to spend on it (hopefully this number was mutually agreed upon).
Your drive and desire to move quickly will take you places so long as you act with incredible grace towards those who think different or ARE different than you in personality and strengths.
You’re naturally an excellent leader, but your management skills will need honing. Why? Because you don’t always mesh with the “norm.” Many of your co-workers will not be passionate leaders, and they won’t act or think like you.
If you can learn to be okay with that, you can structure positive relationships, survive long and THRIVE in your career.
Do you have any special insight for passionate people? If you do, let me know in the comments below.
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