Friday, July 22, 2011

 

Don't let your passion be your downfall

Your passion can be an incredible motivator. It can get you through the dip. It can push you out of your comfort zone to do amazing things.

Your passion can also make you blind. It can make you ignore warning signals. It can color your perspective against what the market is really telling you.

Passion is a double-edged sword. Entrepreneurs and business leaders in particular need to proactively watch and manage three specific manifestations of passion:

1. Passion for the idea
The idea can be a starting point, but may have nothing to do with where you end up. TechStars is famous for investing first in people, not ideas. Brilliant people come into the program with a good idea, but TechStar mentors may gently encourage them to go a different direction.

Brilliant people passionate about specific ideas aren't going to abandon them lightly. But ideas run their course. Are you careful enough, insightful enough, to know when your idea is worth fighting for, and when it's time to make a change?

2. Passion for your product plan
You build a plan up front, based on your vision. Customers start using the product, and have feedback. Critiques. They want changes. Additions. Add-ons. Integration.

Their feedback may not fit with your product plan. Who's right? Who will you listen to?

Some people follow their specific plan and succeed, but that's only because their vision happened to be the same vision of a wide set of prospective customers. This mass-market match is the exception vs. the rule for most of us. Plans are great, but you can't let your passion get in the way of reading and reacting to market feedback.

3. Passion for the way you want to do it
I have yet to meet an entrepreneur who didn't have trouble letting go. I'll never forget the first time someone other than myself ran a Heinz Marketing meeting with a client. It was difficult. Since then, there have been countless times in which I've had a different vision for how something could be done - strategic things, tactical things, and all points in between.

But my job - your job - as a leader isn't to direct everything exactly the way you want it. Your job is to impart a vision for the future, for the outcome, and for a way of doing business. Hiring the right people and inspiring them to improve on your vision is how you grow.

It's also how you'll get to see what your passionate about come to life in a way, and at a scale, that you couldn't have previously imagined possible.

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