Seriously Personal

Lance Leadership, People Leave a Comment

Today’s blog post from Seth Godin ends with the line “take it seriously, not personally.” Coincidentally, last Friday’s EntreLeadership podcast featured Seth, and this notion of taking our work seriously but not personally was also discussed. The difference rests in a single word: professionalism. The Professional takes her work seriously: fully invested, with maximum effort, because to the Professional, it’s the work that matters. On the other hand, taking work personally is the sign of an Amateur: a person for whom Ego is wrapped up in the work, and the results are interpreted as a statement about him as a person, because to the Amateur, it’s how he feels about himself that matters. The difference between the truly Professional and the Amateur is this way of thinking, not how they are compensated for their work. For example, listen to what Herman Edwards is saying through the passion and volume:

Herm Edwards fired up about McCoy, Murray – ESPN Video


When it comes to Leaders, there is another dimension to this equation, because it’s not just about “the work”: it’s also about “the people.” Leaders have to avoid the error of amateurishly thinking the success or failure of the team or organization is about them personally, for sure. But, there is another error that can easily happen when a leader properly takes the work seriously but not personally: they take the same approach with their people. The appropriate posture of “it’s just business” when applied to the work becomes something else entirely when applied to the people. In the latter context, the healthy detachment of Professionalism ferments into a noxious heartlessness. Applying the detached “it’s just business” mindset to your people just leads to detached, disengaged people: good work goes unremarked upon “because it’s expected,” or pain inflicted upon folks by the system’s operation is ignored or dismissed because “it’s just business.”

Take the work seriously. Take the relationships with and effects on your people personally.