A couple of months ago several colleagues and I were having dinner after a long day and we were comparing notes on how our week and the project were going. I commented that things had been “crazy and kind of…..” and I was at a loss for words. Jack offered up “intense” as the word I was looking for to describe it all. That was exactly how I felt. He then commented that it was due to the fact that I was intense.
Honestly I think it was meant as a bit of a dig. Jack tended to think I took my responsibilities a bit too seriously. To me that wasn’t an insult at all, it was a compliment. My role in the project was end-user training and we had just made the switch so I was really focused on making sure things were working for everyone. The fact that I was fully focused on people’s success and experience made me a bit intense I guess.
If we are truly focused on an objective we can come across as intense or even obsessive to others. Does that mean we should back off or tone it down? Not in my world. I am a believer in giving 110% to the things I am doing and I take my work very seriously. There are people who find that intimidating and uncomfortable to be around. When people are nervous or afraid they will act out of compliance to a request instead of getting onboard as a collaborator. You need to know which is going to help you most in the situation, but I always prefer to work with someone who is committed to helping me instead of someone who is just doing what they are told to do.
It’s great to be focused and driving to a result or goal. Unfortunately if we scare the folks we are working with we may end up being less effective. Yet if we don’t appear committed or focused people think we don’t care about results. So how do we strike the right level of intensity?
Here are 5 tips for managing intensity:
- Focus on one goal at a time: If you are pushing towards too many things all at once you will seem unorganized and unfocused. At any one time work on one thing only.
- Remember to see the people: Often what we are doing involves others, either directly or indirectly, so remember that others can be frightened when you come on too strong.
- Breathe: Before you start rattling off a list of next steps or giving directions to others take a couple of deep breaths and slow down. Going too fast will confuse people; make sure the others can keep up.
- Be clear on the true urgency: Just because you are excited and ready to roll doesn’t mean it’s urgent to those around you. What is the real importance and urgency of the task at hand? Is it critical to do now or can it be done soon? Be clear on the true needs and people will respect your deadlines better.
- Smile: When you are going from meeting to meeting or talking with others smile at them and make eye contact. When you are moving fast with your mind on the end goal you come across as remote and scary. Relax and people will respond better to your requests.
Remember being intense means you care about what you are doing and you are focused on getting results. Managing your intensity will allow you to pull others in with you so that you can get more done and have more fun doing it. Focus on results and keep an eye on the people around you to make sure you aren’t burning them with your focus. Sunlight is great until it’s focused so intensely that it starts a fire.
My philosophy: ‘Take your work more seriously than yourself’
I believe in getting things done but having fun while doing it. As a result I’ve found most people to be willing to work with me, help me get things done even when I’m being a bit intense. I will laugh at myself and my mistakes quickly and readily yet I’m always serious about the results I’m looking to achieve.
Have you ever been accused of being too intense?