I didn’t mean to hurt you,
I’m sorry that I mad you cry,
I didn’t want to hurt you,
I’m just an “passionate” guy.
– With apologies to John Lennon
I won’t lie. Things haven’t been easy here in Costa Rica. This is, without question, the hardest job I’ve ever had. (And although I’m sure it’s very naive of me to say this, I hope it remains the hardest.) I’ve had to learn a lot to be able to work well here, not just within the cultural dimensions, but in particular the steps you take to start up a company on your own.
It’s not been easy. And it’s been showing. I’ve shown my frustration, my temper,and my intolerance. I haven’t shown nearly enough compassion, understanding, or patience.
And it’s been noticed.
It became very apparent when a co-worker approached me a few days ago. They said:
You seemed less angry today.
There’s a few ways to take that statement (for better or for worse), but it hinges on one fact: I’ve been really angry. I don’t mean mildy ticked, or slightly annoyed, or even overly irritated. I mean “angry”. I’ve been downright beligerant, even. And I’m highly embarrassed.
This is not quality leadership, under any circumstance. This is the kind of leadership I’ve abhorred from my leaders, and swore never to do myself. (Hence the shame.) Yelling, stomping around, pulling one’s hair out, chewing people out, and generally being “pissy” are all demotivators. They’re all detrimental to the leadership effect, and serves only to make a team not want to work together (or work at all).
Over the years, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with people who can smile like Hindu cows under pressure that would cause most people to curl up in a fetal position mumbling “Mommy”. Disasters were when you saw them at their best — being able to look complete failure in the face, and still pull out an ace card. That sort of grace has always amazed me. And I’ve longed to emulate it, but it just seems out of my grasp.
I was talking with a friend about this problem last night, and they hit upon a point: I’m passionate.
And it’s true. Passion comes from one’s drive, desires, and opinions. And I’m opinionated. [Loud scream from the audience: VERY opinionated!!] I’m in this job — this industry — because I’ve loved it for a very long time (cough almost 15 years cough) and I know there’s always a better way to something.
I’ve been passionate for a long time. Beyond the fact that I’ve had some very passionate mentors from whom I gained a certain amount of … well, let’s say “pig-headedness” when it comes to compromising one’s ideals, it also doesn’t help (hurt?) that I’m a Know-It-All. I want things done certain ways: I know which methodologies, best practises, and processes work well, and how to deliver things quickly and effectively. I know how to deliver instructions in such a way as to convey information quickly and succinctly so that time isn’t wasted.
So when things aren’t going the way I want them to be going, frustration starts to rise. I want people to understand and react. I want results, and I want them now. Delays are not an option. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
And it all comes down to a single problem: I’m assuming.
I’m assuming people understand me. I’m assuming they all react the way I’m used to people reacting. I’m assuming that a lack of a given skill set is an opportunity and not a problem. I’m expecting people to appreciate the seriousness of a deadline. I’m expecting things will be done quickly.
That’s something I’m not communicating. Because I make the assumptions, I don’t follow through to ensure that my needs (understanding, rection, results, timeliness) are being met. I turn the onus back on the members of my team rather than solving the issues at hand. So the problems persist.
All this makes me … well, angry. It makes me look like a shmuck. And that makes me not happy. Not with my team, but with myself. I need only to look in the mirror to know where the problem lies.
Obvious next question: How to fix it?
This is something my friend tried to help me with it, but in the end I just got angry from an inability to see options. There is an answer, and it’s going to be another handy note from Mr. Lennon:
Help, I need somebody,
Help, not just anybody,
Help, you know I need someone, help.
– The Beatles
The biggest assumption I’ve been making? That I can do this all on my onesie’s. This isn’t just a lot of work, it’s a near monumental task. And it’s too much for one person. I need help. I need to stop being a sole container of information, and distribute the knowledge and “power” (I use the term very lightly) to others so that we increase empowerment.
Or at least, that’s my theory. How it all pans out? Only time will tell.
So until then, I’m just the “passionate” guy. And yes, having “passionate” in quotes is intentional, because it’s a very fine line between “passionate” and “angry”, and I don’t want to be the “angry guy” anymore.
It’s just no fun.