A client recently boasted about his ability not to take things personally. I found the statement particularly surprising because the most frequent complaint about him is that he can be extreme in his reactions, which has cost himself several critical relationships. On the upside, he is known as the person with the most heart, the most passion, the deepest commitment in the company. He takes his success personally. The problem is, he takes obstacles to that success equally personally; he reacts with a “fight or flight” response – and he always chooses to fight.
Taking things personally doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Here are three ways to use it to your leadership advantage:
1. Use your passion to motivate and ignite others. Have you ever seen the guys w ho fire up a football huddle before the start of the game? Their enthusiasm and energy is contagious. Use your commitment to team or organizational goals to ignite passion in others.
2. Learn from resistance and constructive criticism. Abraham Lincoln engendered what Connors & Smith, in their book The Oz Principle (2010) define as accountability: “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results…” He was passionate about abolishing slavery, but was also passionate about reuniting all of the States. By taking to heart the fears and objections of those who ad amantly opposed him, he was able to speak to those concerns, eventually allowing the 14th Amendment to be passed. Take others’ fears and concerns to heart to develop a more compelling position or to change your own behavior.
3. Be emotionally intelligent. Face it: people do not check their emotions at the door when they come to work – and that includes you. (As an old psychology adage says, “You take yourself with you wherever you go.”) Recognize why some people and situations “push your buttons.” Own (but do not necessarily act upon) your internal feelings and reactions, so they don’t end up owning YOU.
So, the next time someone offers you constructive criticism, say, “Thanks. I’m taking that personally. And that’s a good thing.”