Taking a Pass on Passion
A lot of the world’s best work is done without getting all fired up about it.
As the staff meeting started it occurred to me that coffee smells better than it tastes. Even with generous heaps of sweet and milky adulterants, the aroma itself overpromises. But as we sipped our cuppas and pre-reviewed the agenda for the team meeting on advancing a government agency’s program, we were rocked back on our heels. Oh no. Not her. Listed there was the name of yet another passionate consultant.
It’s funny how passion has become the newest pseudo-credential in the long march of management fads and certifications, particularly among the consulting classes. We’re told clients just love passionate experts, where you can cut the thickness of their commitment and enthusiasm with a knife.
Ok, so maybe there is nothing wrong with energized experts who love their work trying to inspire others. Except. This is a plea to remember the rest of us, who have to sit through their hour-long presentations teetering on less than five minutes worth of original ideas and evidence. Thank god for caffeine as the rest of the morning’s work will involve just trying to stay awake listening to them wave their arms around in overheated passion for the subject, for the client’s mission, and for their superpowers as mega-consultants.
In teaming with a consulting firm on a government contract we were subjected to regular bouts of them discussing their “superpowers” as consultants. “Strategy” said one. “Facilitating organizational transformation” said another. When pressed to share ours, we demurred, saying we were modest Midwesterners raised not to boast, thanks.
What about this passion for “passion” in the consulting space? Do we really want to associate the sweatiness and humidity of the deed with how we behave in the workplace? Most readings of the employee handbook would suggest otherwise. Is listening to an expert’s demonstration of their passion really worth our time? Should we really put up with passionate bludgeonings about whatever will promote a consultant's billability? Or is passion just the new hard sell?
Some of us are done with passion in the workplace. Call us unenthusiastic. Say we don’t light the workplace on fire with our input. Say we’re just cogs. But remember that a lot of the world’s best work is done by those who keep their heads down and bring a steady engagement and thoughtfulness to their tasks, without, well, getting all worked up about it.
Maybe the coffee will taste as good as it smells with the next management fad. Scrum on coffee flavors anyone?
Steve Gibb is a reporter and former consultant.
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