The problem with passion
I just read Justin Tarte’s post “Your passion can be your worst enemy…” and I couldn’t agree more! I know the feeling so well of being in a faculty meeting, presenting an idea, and wondering why it’s not taking off; I’ve been in that position plenty of times before. He does a great job of identifying the problem, but it leaves me thinking about why things sometimes go so wrong and how to avoid it.
Tarte says, “for those who are super passionate and excited to share new ideas and new approaches, be cautious because it’s that passion and excitement that can kill an idea before it even has a chance.” That’s right, and it really has to do with the presentation, which means strategies can help.
(1.) I know I’ve had flops before when I’ve gone in too certain that my idea is solid. You need to bear in mind that you’ve been thinking this through for a while, but to the group it’s all new. Slow down & cover all the details. This process can even recreate that moment of discovery, and maybe spur the same passion in some.
Bring them along with you! Don’t gloss over the thinking that got you here. Your team needs to know why we’re looking down this path if they’re going to come along. I’ve learned to be careful to explain what got me going, holding back on some of the exuberance until people get a sense of where I’m headed.
(2.) Passion can also be off-putting because it closes you off from others. They see your excitement and assume your idea is untouchable. Be open to critique. And make sure they know you are! If they feel they can be part of the process, they’ll listen & keep an open mind.
But remember, this part isn’t just performance: if you’re going to invite contributions, you need to really be flexible. Otherwise, you’ll just be seen as patronizing your colleagues. Worse, they may see your rigidity as arrogance.
If you’re open to new ideas you’ll end up with a better final product. You’ll change because they’ve seen something you missed. Or, you’ll stick to the original plan, but not before articulating a reason why. Thinking through the criticism will strengthen your resolve and gather people to your cause.
When presenting an idea, remember: It’s good to have cynics on your team… They’ll hold back and look for holes in the plan. That’s not great if they jump out too early, believe me! But if you remember they’re there, you’ll think through your whole presentation beforehand and make sure it answers a lot of questions off the top.
So, these two “mindset” strategies will help you present your ideas effectively. Hold back on the passion to make sure the reasoning comes through and the idea gets its due consideration. But, as Tarte reminds us, “don’t lose that excitement and passion”: it’s what will keep you and your team inspired as you work from idea to reality.
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