I place a high value on trust and integrity. As vice president many years ago, I was given a variety of privileges, and I worked hard to honor those privileges. So, when the president of the company started to accuse me of stealing from the company, I was perplexed and dumbfounded. At first, I took it personally, because it was an attack on who I am, fundamentally. That led to anger, tears and a desire to quit my job and leave the company.
But a consultant helped me work through what were very strong emotions. In the process, I began to see this was an institutional mistrust that had been breeding throughout the organization — it wasn’t just about me. So, I decided to take another approach: instead of taking it personally, I responded to the accusations with questions. What was making him believe that? What was he concerned about?
It was such an amazing turning point! I was empowered, and he was able to talk through what was happening for him. In a short period of time, I went from untrusted subordinate to confidant as he worked through a good deal of stress and, in that stress, general suspicion about everything.
So, how did that happen? What was it that allowed me to turn a potentially career-breaking low into a high point?
I stopped making it personal.
Because I value integrity so much, it became a weak point for me. Our strongest values are often our most vulnerable points, because those are the places where our passion lives. Just as in the military, we most adamantly defend the softest targets.
That passion is great, because it’s one of the strongest tools we have available in our professional lives. But passion has a downside, because it can easily cross the line into emotion. And it’s never a good idea to let emotion sit in the driver’s seat of our careers.
But how can we prevent emotion from derailing passion? By identifying triggers.
When do I become emotional in stressful situations? Does the rapid pace and demands of success push me closer to that line? If I can figure out what makes me bend and, eventually, break, I can learn to identify a problematic situation before it takes control of me. That gives me the chance to recover from the initial pressure point.
If I had continued to let my emotions run free, I may very well have been fired over a misunderstanding. Instead, it became one of the best moments of my career. Where is your passion being overtaken by emotion? What do you need to help you regain control?