Intensity, Not Drama

“Whoa, that was intense!” Do you remember the last time you used that phrase in the office? Most of the time when someone describes something as “intense”, they often mean something related to an event that that was emotionally charged and sometimes even chaotic. Think of it as the “reality show reaction” to work environments: a chair pushed across the room in frustration, a loud outburst of demands or quiet, yet seething, threats. When the issuer of those outbursts is challenged on his behavior, he will often fall back on the excuse that he is “intense about his work.” This person (man or woman) shouldn’t mistake a propensity for anger, however, as positive intensity.

When we talk about “intensity”, we are referring to the magnitude of energy that is concentrated toward a focus, specific goal and not the flailing explosion of emotion or frantic energy of a chaotic work environment. Positive intensity (focus, drive, concentration, passion) pulls people in. It is joining force that serves to bring teams together toward the common goal. Negative intensity (erratic, bullying or histrionic behavior) pushes people away and slows progress because it diminishes trust. We cannot trust what we cannot predict.

What does this have to do with resiliency? It all comes down to what we are choosing to cultivate. We cannot cultivate resiliency within ourselves or our organizations in an environment of mistrust. It is like expecting a plant to grow in crumbling concrete; if anything grows at all, it’s likely to be a weed (resentment, burnout, stress, low morale).

The book Speed of Trust, by Steven M.R. Covey, describes a lack of trust as an “organizational tax.” When trust goes down, cost goes up: cost associated with disengagement, turnover, politics and even fraud. The next time colleagues (or even you) are tempted to blow up and then blame it on the intensity of the job, consider the results you are actually cultivating, instead of the results you wish you could be cultivating.

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