What Do YOU Control?

I was in a meeting with a team of high performing Sales Professionals and the discussion turned to all the things that frustrate salespeople. The list of frustrations for people who make their living selling has never been longer. Kinda like the list of frustrations for everyone. 

Most of the things that frustrated this group were things that they couldn’t control. Some of those things directly affected their paycheck and therefore their standard of living. Kinda like everyone else these days. 

Once we determined most of frustrations shared by these Sales Professionals were beyond their control we changed directions. We starting looking at the list of things they could control. They were a little surprised, maybe a lot surprised, that the list of what they had 100% control over was much longer than their list of frustrations. 

Kinda like the rest of us.  

It also became abundantly clear that this group of usually capable, well disciplined professionals were allowing the things they couldn’t control to prevent them from controlling the things they could. 

That happens to all of us sometimes, perhaps more than sometimes. Perhaps way more. 

But it’s so much easier to focus on the things we don’t control because we don’t have to expend any effort to correct them. What we don’t realize is that we’re still expending energy. It’s just wasted energy that we use to complain about the stuff we’re not expending energy on correcting. 

Yes, we are often forced to deal with things that we can’t control. Things that frustrate us immensely. But that doesn’t mean they have to control our life. 

You’ll be more successful if you use your energy to focus on the things YOU can control. You’ll also have a happier life. You’ll have a better attitude. You’ll be more productive. You’ll feel more in control. Actually, you won’t just feel more in control, you’ll have taken back control of your life. Even in these incredibly frustrating times. 

If you want control over your life then make yourself a list of all the things that you have control over in your life. I promise if you think this through it will be a long list. 

Some examples from my list include:

  • My attitude
  • My appearance (I dress exactly as I would if I was going to the office or meeting customers. The only difference is instead of a left turn to go into the garage I take three additional steps forward into my home office.) 
  • My level of productivity 
  • My response to the people I have contact with (despite what you may have heard there is no requirement that you allow someone else’s poor planning to become your problem)
  • My level of kindness towards others (there is never a reason to add to another person’s bad day)
  • My level of effort I put towards whatever I’m doing
  • My decisions
  • My level of commitment to earning what I’m paid (there is not and never will be any obstacle that can prevent you from giving your best effort…unless you allow it to)
  • My level of desire to help others succeed
  • My level of respect for people who I may disagree with or people who have very different viewpoints than my own
  • My level of empathy for people who are frustrated by the things they can’t control and haven’t learned to focus on the things they can

And the list could go on and on. 

Make your own list and share it for others in the comments section. Maybe we can help each other focus on the things we can control and decrease our level of frustration at the same time. 

Those would seem to be to be pretty good things to do. 

Is “Passion” Just an Excuse?

Would you describe yourself as a passionate person? Passionate about your business, your industry, your job, or your people?

If you are, that is a good thing…. maybe.

I say maybe because too often people in leadership positions use “passion” as an excuse for losing control of their emotions. If you’ve never used the excuse you have certainly heard it, you know, the “sorry about losing my temper, but I’m “passionate” about this. Or, “sorry I called you an idiot but my “passion” for the project got the best of me.”

I’m going to say this as cleary as I can; Authentic Servant Leaders do not use passion as an excuse for losing control of their emotions.

When you lose control of your emotions you lose. You lose credibility, you lose trust, you lose productivity, you lose time, you lose respect. You may not lose them all but you lose at least some. If you lose them often enough you will also lose the ability to lead.

Let’s look at a very high level definition of passion and emotion. On the surface you are passionate about something; you get emotional about someone. But there’s a more fundamental difference between the two. Passion involves the mind; emotion, by definition, excludes mental judgments, at least sound mental judgments.

Passion drives people to action. A passionate football fan will be driven to study statistics, learn rosters, follow players on social media. They will devote significance time to knowing and understanding the game. Someone who is emotional about football might throw their beer at the TV when the quarterback for “their” team is intercepted late in a game.

Later, when shopping for a replacement TV it will be obvious that throwing the beer was a bad idea. However, at the emotional moment that it happened, practicing good judgment wasn’t even a thought. The guy explains the “unfortunate moment” to his wife by saying he is just a passionate fan.

It’s perfectly okay to be emotional, in fact, we have to be emotional to lead a full life. You need to be aware however that emotions often block your critical thinking skills. When you’re in a highly emotional state you’re thinking differently than when you’re not so emotional. That does not make you a weak leader, it makes you a human being.

The most effective leaders have passion. They also work to maintain control of their emotions when people around them are losing control of theirs. They allow a bit of time to come between their emotions and their decisions.

Authentic Servant Leaders do not make rash emotional decisions. Yes, they will allow emotions to “inform” their decisions but that is far different than making a raw emotional decision.

When you understand the difference between mindful passion and mindless emotion you will be more likely to positively influence the people you lead.

So go ahead, be passionate, be emotional and especially be aware of the difference between the two!