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Don’t confuse your emotion for passion

Passion is one of the most effective motivators a leader can demonstrate—passion for your business, your customers, and above all, your people. It’s hard to resist following someone who shows that they care for what they are talking about. Whether it’s winning the game, maintaining one’s integrity, or truly caring about people, a passionate argument, supported by facts, will always hold sway over a simple presentation of facts and logic.

It’s usually strong emotions, both good and bad, that drive your passion. A desire to win or a fear of failure, a desire for acceptance or fear of being deemed a fraud, the desire to be promoted and advance your career, or the fear of being passed over or even fired: all of these emotions can stoke passion.

I have always been proud of my passionate approach to my career. Often, people would ask why I was so excited (and probably loud). Was I angry or upset? “No,” I would respond. “I’m very passionate.” I realized my inner passion would not always motivate my people, primarily because it was driven by my emotions, and in many cases, my fears. Over time I worked hard to “pick up the valleys of despair” and “knock down the mountains of excitement.” People still knew I was passionate, but I presented it with more consistency and in manageable pieces.

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Here are a few practices I found helpful to keep my emotions in check and passion evident:

1. Get the facts first. Before you react to bad news, get all the facts. I had a boss chew me out over a customer com- plaint before he heard both sides of the story. After he spoke to the customer, he found out that the issue was not what it seemed. He laughingly called me up and said not to worry about it, but the damage was done. I knew going forward that he would not have my back.

2. Make it about the issue, not you. It’s easy to approach a problem thinking about how it might affect you, but to effectively tackle it with your team, you need to switch your approach to how it affects them. As a parent, it might work to tell your child how something makes you feel or that you are disappointed, but as a leader, you are not raising children. You are creating a dynamic and productive team. Teach them how to take initiative and act independently using good judgment that you have helped nurture. The most simple step is to avoid phrases that use the word “I.” Leading with phrases like, “I don’t ever want to feel this way again,” or, “Do you know what I did for you?” make it about your emotions rather than about your team.

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3. Don’t lose your team. Like a forest, it takes a long time to grow trust and motivate your team, but it just takes one moment to burn it all down. I once witnessed a company leader gather his team together in a big room to “motivate the team.”

He proceeded to call out individuals on their performance and threatened them if they continued to let him down. He concluded the meeting by saying he didn’t want to ever feel that way again, and everybody should do a better job going forward. After his speech, half of the team quit on him, and the other half resolved to do everything they could to stay out of his way and not draw any attention to themselves. The one thing the leader accomplished was that he never felt that way again about the leadership team. He was fired by the end of the year.

The challenge is to successfully convert your emotions to passion in a way that makes people buy in and want to be on your team. People will leave a manager who doesn’t care about them. They’ll follow a leader who motivates them.

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