Why your passion leaves me cold

Why your passion leaves me cold

 These days it seems that everyone has to look passionate, to sound passionate and to feel passionate if they want to be taken seriously.

Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall says her party must become ‘as passionate about wealth creation as wealth distribution’. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is passionate about free education. McDonald’s, currently facing mass protests from its staff about low pay, is ‘passionate about satisfying our customers, growing our business, making money and having fun’. The British Film Institute is, unsurprisingly, ‘passionate about film’.

When I work with professionals from various sectors and ask them to come up with 3-5 key messages for a presentation, a media interview or an important meeting, one of those messages, invariably, will focus on their passion: for creating innovative products, for turning the company round, for healing the sick, for righting social wrongs, whatever.

Be more imaginative

Invariably I sigh inwardly (sometimes audibly) and wish they could be a little bit more imaginative and come up with something a little less predictable.

Here are my top three reasons why I think we need to start cooling our passion.

1. With so much passion around, the word itself has become devalued. It has started to lose its meaning in the way that ‘unique’ has lost its meaning now that it applies to anything a little bit different; or 100% has lost its meaning now that the real triers go for 150%-plus.

2. Talking to me about your passion tells me nothing about your fitness-for-purpose. My plumber may feel passionate about unblocking drains but I am much more interested in whether he has the tools, the skills and the experience to do the job properly.

3. When you talk about your passion you are focused on your own feelings and not the needs of the audience you are planning to address. To put it bluntly: they don’t care about how you feel – they want to know what’s in it for them.

So let’s put passion on the back burner for a while and maybe revisit such neglected phrases as ‘interested in’ or ‘care about’.

Better still, let’s experiment with moving from ‘send’ to ‘receive’ mode and start prioritising the needs of our stakeholders over our own motivations.