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Passion, People and Principles

How’s Your Mood?

post # 24 — February 28, 2006 — a Careers, Strategy post

In the article I published on my website last Friday (February 24, 2006) entitled It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Much You Want It

I argued that the key to the success of individuals and firms is the level of drive and determination that they have.

As a follow up, here is the scale I use when I am running meetings. I put the following alternatives up on a screen and ask everyone to tell me what percentage of the people they know in the organization fit into each of these categories. (It works much better if you have anonymous voting machines, which I use a lot.)

  1. Burned out
  2. Jaded, Cynical, Skeptical
  3. Bored or Complacent
  4. Dutiful
  5. Satisfied
  6. Hopeful
  7. Interested
  8. Intrigued
  9. Enthused and Excited
  10. Passionate and Energetic

I don’t have enough research to report reliable averages to you here, but I can tell you some general patterns.

First, if you ask people to use this scale and tell you how their employee / subordinates are feeling those higher up in the organization always give much higher ratings about how the subordinates feel than the subordinates do themselves. Those on top routinely underestimate the disaffection of those below.

Second, people tend to rate themselves more highly than they rate their peers (ie how excited are you right now versus how excited are you colleagues?)

I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I have learned that people tend to exaggerate their own dynamism, and they are skeptical about the engagement of their peers. Which is the truth I don’t know, but I’m always suspicious about what people tell you about themselves – my slogan is that what you think of yourself is always irrelevant data. What everyone else thinks of you is going to influence things much more.

Anyway, you can probably guess where the overall trends seem to be. Every organization talks about delivering on exciting careers for its people, inspiring them with its vision and so on forever. My polling data suggests that most firms have a ways to go.

What’s your mood right now?


Rita Keller said:

I have been actively involved in CPA firm management for 27 years. I continually read your books and articles; this one really hit home. I interact with hundreds of CPA firm leaders each year and I hear a constant theme.. our partners are complacent. I think I now know why I haven’t given up and you phrased it so well – “the key lesson is that, for me, lifelong drive and determination, the burning passion to get somewhere next, are the key ingredients in career success.” My passionate mood continues!

posted on March 3, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Thanks, Rita. That’s why I think one of the greatest accomplishments in life is to be able to say, as a parent, as a manager, as a staff support person, as a trainer or as a consultant – I helped turn somebody on today. I helped someone find their passion. I helped someone begin to stretch and reach. The chance to make that contribution is what we all have in common.

posted on March 3, 2006

Bill Peper said:

I found the passion scale contained in this blog and your recent article quite helpful as well.

In what ways have David and the Maister “bloggites” inspired their clients/direct reports to realize improved workplace performance?

The question popped into my mind today when I received a link to a video clip of an amazing basketball player and performance. Here is the link:


Warning: The video clip gave me Goosebumps and made me teary.

Is there a place in the manager’s bag of tricks for inspiring, non-work-related videos? I have shown clips from Blue Angels documentaries, Emmanuel’s Gift, and a documentary on Terry Fox. How effective is this? And what videos/documentaries/stories have inspired those of you who read the blog?

posted on March 3, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Bill, I don’t know if they still do it, but wshen I was a student at Harvard Business School the ‘Organizational Behavior’ course made extensive use of Hollywood movies to illustrate inspirational management and leadership issues. Two eternal favorites were ‘Twelve O’Clock high” and “12 angry men,” Both in black and white, you probably couldn’t use them now, but It wouldn’t suprise me to find out that there are modern equivalents.

Anyone got examples like Bill’s to share, or suggestions for modern movies that actually would and do inspire professional people?

posted on March 3, 2006