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Ask AMA: Tipping Sacred Cows

March 15, 2013

You asked, we answered.

In the webcast, Tipping Sacred Cows: Kicking Bad Habits That Masquerade as Virtues, there were some questions we didn’t get to answer. Here are two of them along with expert answers from Jake Breeden.

Can you please expand on the thought “Pick your passion. Don’t let it pick you.”
Passion for work is good when it’s harmonious, not when it’s obsessive. Obsessive passion stems from a compulsion to prove something to someone else, or to yourself. This unhealthy passion leads to burnout and bad decisions. When your passion picks you, you feel compelled to work hard to prove a point.

On the other hand, when you feel free to pick what you are passionate about because it brings you joy, contentment or fulfillment, you are more likely to achieve good results in a sustainable way.

My boss is the kind of person who feels safe with numbers and collaboration and tends to overdo this to the point of micromanagement.  How can I help him see the impact of his actions?
Managing up means changing your boss’s behavior. Leading up means changing your boss’s capability. Sounds like you need to do a bit of both. First, you’ll need to get your boss to help you understand his belief system. Why does he want collaboration? Tell him that you want to learn. And ask your boss sometime when it won’t seem like you’re being defensive or resistant.

Once you uncover the root of his belief system, you can address his underlying need. Maybe he wants to lower risk or maybe he has a high need for control. Resist the urge to assume you know until you ask. Patiently do the work of understanding.

As he thinks out loud and takes you through his thought process, he may well realize some of his thinking is flawed. Give him the space and time to come to that conclusion. By doing this, you are helping your boss be a better boss. And you are practicing your own skills at developing others.

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About The Author

Jake Breeden is one of Duke Corporate Education’s most active faculty members. Breeden has taught leaders in 27 countries. He has also taught for the Association of National Advertiser’s School of Marketing and as an adjunct professor of marketing for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Over the past ten years he has completed additional research and teaching in leadership, culminating in the book, Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits That Masquerade as Virtues.

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