Pride versus passion, and why project managers need both

If there were a candidate for the most overused word in business then "passion" has got be right up there. This word used to come up a lot in the creative industries. Now it seems to spring up everywhere.

Getting the job done takes a lot more than just passion

It seems to have become a particular staple of job listings.

Do you have a passion for reaching out to disaffected youth? Do you have a passion for creating complex delivery systems? Do you have a passion for vertically integrated markets? Do you have a passion for scaling client-supplier inverted promotional strategies?

Actually I made that last one up, but the rest are real life examples. It seems that every organisation is full of passionate people, passionately delivering their passion projects in passionate way. This is not lazy copywriting, it's lazy thinking. Even if you are passionate about what you do, you are definitely not passionate about every part of what you do.

I used to play bass guitar in a semi-professional covers band. What could be more passion driven than a love of music and the chance to play it live. Surely I had to be passionate about that?

Don't get me wrong. Playing live was wonderful. However, an inevitable part of doing each gig involved loading and unloading a quarter of a ton of PA equipment into a van each evening. Twice.

Was I passionate about that part? Of course I wasn't. Arnold Schwarzenegger might be passionate about lifting heavy weights but it's pure drudgery as far as I am concerned. That was the tedious part of the job, but it needed to be done and it needed to be done properly. If you are the kind of person who only does the parts that you really care about, then everything you do is going to end up half-baked.

As a word, passion has been rendered meaningless by overuse. It goes into job descriptions, PR releases, status reports, pitches, proposals and everything in between. It gets inserted without consideration and as such, should be dismissed without consideration. Whenever someone tells me how passionate they are about their work, my eyes tend to glaze over.

The original meaning of the word meant either physical lust or uncontrolled anger. Neither of these are particularly useful in the workplace.

Granted, passion is great for getting projects started. But it doesn't last, and once your passion is burnt out you usually find that 90% of the project still remains. So how are you going to deal with that.

Take pride

Its a strange thing that pride has been generally regarded as a negative trait throughout history. Most religions regard pride as being the first and most serious of the deadly sins. Despite this, a lot of the language that surrounds the word is often quite positive.

  • Pride of place
  • Pride of Great Britain
  • Take pride in your work
  • Take pride in your appearance
  • Bursting with pride
  • I am proud of you...

Pride can be one the most positive drivers of human behaviour, and taking pride in your work is one the best attributes you can bring to the table. Taking pride in your work means dotting the I's and crossing the T's, It means measuring twice and cutting once. it means double checking your work and applying the fishing touches. Most of all it means recognising that God is in the details.

Talent is for amateurs

A professional musician once told me that "talent is for amateurs, the rest of us have to show up." What he meant was that talent was all very well, and you could not be a professional musician without at least some minimum of ability, but it would not be enough on it's own.

Professional musicians cannot afford to be just talented. They have to show up, on time, every time, ready to play. This can be a problem with talent, that it can often be used as an excuse for unprofessional behaviour.

This in turn brings us back to passion. Passion won't allow you to slog through endless spreadsheets looking for an error. Passion won't help you debug a complex array of functions in a database. Passion won't help you proof-read a 200 page contract.

Pride in your work will help you do all of those things. More importantly it will help you do them well. Not only will pride get you to the end of a project, it will also help you execute every single step correctly along the way; ensure that you avoid taking shortcuts; and help to make sure that every last aspect of the job has been realised as well as possible.

So if you do not already, learn to take pride in your work. You are going to need it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *