If you want to have power, take ownership

I truly believe that there are no coincidences in life. Things always happen for a reason. Many times, it is easy for us to see that cause-and-effect reason. For example: we raised our voice at someone, they were offended and it caused a rift in our partnership and trust. Now they don’t want to work with us.

Other times we can’t immediately see the bigger reason or lesson taking place. We scratch our head and wonder “why did this happen to me?” or “why did I not get the result I wanted when I wanted it so badly and/or I worked so hard to get it?” But, after some time lapse—which often gives new perspective—we have an “aha moment” and we get it.

Sometimes, we feel very attached to an outcome. We feel we just have to achieve it. Our brand and self-worth depends on it. Then, after we didn’t receive it, we realize that “not getting that outcome turned out to be the best outcome for us.”

I believe that most of the time the circumstances and results that we have around us are a function of something about us – our attitude and mindset or actions and behaviors.

Even if what I wrote above is not physically, scientifically or factually true… and it couldn’t be proven, I still believe it is a valid and powerful philosophy from which to view our life and the world around us.

In fact, I coach leaders and people on this topic all the time. People often tend to blame others or the circumstances for their shortfalls and inability to achieve what they want. In most cases, people are simply blind to their own shortcomings and how these impact their surroundings.

For example, I was coaching an executive who is very ambitious and successful. He had achieved great results in his division and he desperately wanted to be promoted to the next level. But, without realizing it, because of his ambition he has frequently treated people around him, including his peers, in what they experienced as an arrogant and condescending manner. In fact, many viewed him as always looking out for, and promoting himself, even at the expense of others. When the time came for his colleagues to give him their vote of confidence for his promotion, they were reluctant. He didn’t end up getting the promotion and, as you can imagine, he felt offended very upset. He blamed others for not getting the promotion, rather than looking inward and owning that he had something to do with people’s experience of him. I deal with this type of dynamic in organizations all the time.

Taking genuine ownership is a transformational step. Sometimes it requires courage to face reality. But, looking in the mirror and owning the situation, especially if it is uncomfortable or challenging, is a game changer. It moves people from being smaller than their problems to being bigger than their problems. I have found that when this shift happens, people always tend to feel more empowered, eager and excited to take action and turn things around.

Taking ownership has a similar impact on the good things as it does on the bad. When we take ownership of our great accomplishments and successes, it also compels and empowers us to step up to the next level of self-expression with greater confidence and faith. People who don’t take ownership of their greatness seem to be more held back and apologetic in and about their life.

Taking ownership gives us power to learn from history so that we can drive things in the future to new heights. It the mandatory step for taking the game to the next level in any area. And, as the saying goes, “The truth shall set us free.” Even if first it “pisses us off.”

Why most teams are not strong at making decisions and sticking to them

How many times have you experienced the following scenario?

The team discusses an important challenge or opportunity that is critical to the organization’s future. The conversation goes on and on without resolution, as different people have divergent opinions about the best course of action. When the team tries to bring it to a conclusion, they are no closer to alignment. They leave the meeting “agreeing to disagree.”

Such meetings are worse than a waste of time: they actually damage the team, which is no closer to making the necessary decisions and assuming responsibility for them. Unfortunately, people have stayed within their comfort zones at the expense of moving the organization forward in new and dynamic ways.

Many times, this happens because leaders and managers either lack the courage to take a stand or they don’t understand their role as leaders. Often, people simply don’t know how to effectively manage conversations.

People seem to be so attached to their opinions and points of view that they simply don’t listen or can’t hear what their colleagues are saying. As a result, they can’t tell the difference between what is essential to moving the conversation forward and what is merely a matter of preference, form or cosmetic.

They want others to view and express things the way they do. But, in diverse teams that is not going to happen, and quite frankly it shouldn’t. In fact, one of the strengths of a diverse team is the ability of its members to look at things from multiple angles and points of view in order reach a richer and more complete conclusion.

But, reaching a conclusion is the key. And, this is what most teams don’t do well.

I often see team members arguing about important details even though they actually agree with each other on the principle or direction.  Instead of building upon each other, they react too quickly with “I disagree” only to say the same thing in their own words. This slows the discussion to a snail’s pace and makes everyone mentally and physically exhausted.

Another ailment: people opine endlessly about things without ever saying “therefore I propose” and moving the discussion forward toward a decision.

Discussions that spin in a directionless manner suck the energy out of the team. Although people remain seated around the table, they begin to silently give up and mentally disengage. This fuels negative underground chatter and background noise, as well as cynicism about meetings. In most organizations, the general sentiments about meetings are “too many” and “most are a waste of time”.

But it gets worse! When teams make decisions based on compromise and lack of alignment, people say all the right things – just to get the tortuous meeting over – but they leave the discussions not genuinely owning its conclusion, outcome and decision. When circumstances press, people have no problem paying lip service to the decisions.

Reflect on your own experience – have you ever looked back after these meetings and felt the frustrating feeling: “we just spent hours discussing and agreeing to something important, and people still go off and do what they want regardless of the decision?”

That dynamic is more damaging to the team and organization than if you didn’t make a decision in the first place.

Effective leaders and managers know how important it is to have an open debate with honest, respectful listening because there is rarely a single right answer to any dilemma or question. They always look for ways to encourage their people to set aside their personal egos, agendas, and preferences in order to align with the collective wisdom of the group.

They instill in their teams a commitment to the type of conversation that leads to making choices, aligning behind those choices, and taking responsibility together. This requires courage.

There is never a justification to leave a conversation “agreeing to disagree”. It is always a cop-out.

Of course, some topics are complex and may require a number of meetings and conversations to gather the necessary input and to digest it as a group. But, paralysis by analysis is always an excuse to avoid taking a stand.

Organizations that achieve 100 percent alignment behind a goal that is 80 percent right have a much greater chance of success than those where people are 80 percent aligned behind a goal that is 100 percent right. How motivated are those who are not aligned to work towards the success of a goal they have not endorsed? They are the ones watching and waiting to say: “I told you so.”

Obviously, it is scary to step up to the plate and take full responsibility for a goal or direction that is uncertain, controversial, difficult to achieve, or politically incorrect. But, when team members find the courage to make the tough choices, they are immediately more powerful. They are able to apply their energy towards proving their choices right rather than wasting energy on proving others wrong.

If an entire team is behind one direction – even if it is only 80 percent correct – if they truly align, commit, and have each other’s backs, it is astounding what can be accomplished.

Do you know where you really live? It could change your life.

Often, people do not pay enough attention to what they say—both publicly and privately. Whether positive or negative, people don’t seem to understand the immense consequences of what they say or think.

I believe most people would agree that positive, optimistic and encouraging conversations uplift and empower their spirits and psyches, whereas negative, cynical conversations have the opposite effect.

However, there is more to the story. What we say and think also have significant repercussions on our overall wellbeing. Certain conversations give us energy while others suck the energy out of us. Have you noticed that some days you are tired at 10am in the morning and other days you are full of energy at 10pm at night?

That is not a coincidence.

Most of the time, our level of energy is not a function of how many hours we slept the night before…or even how hard we worked during the day. In fact, some mornings we jump out of bed full of vitality even when we only slept a few hours. And, some nights we are wide awake even after a long day of hard work.

Our energy, mood and spirit are all shaped by the conversations and thoughts we entertain and dwell in. In fact, we live more in our conversational environment then in our physical environments.

Let me illustrate:

Have you ever been on a conference call while commuting to or from work on the highway and suddenly had a shocking realization that for the previous 20 minutes you were completely not present to what was occurring on the road in front of you?

Have you even taken time off with the intention and desire to fully disengage from work and rejuvenate, but you just couldn’t relax and let go because some issue or interaction at work was still irritating, upsetting and consuming your attention and soul?

We don’t litter, trash or neglect our physical environment because we know that we live in it. But, we do tend to litter, trash and neglect our conversational habitat.

If you accept this premise, you should be more inclined to better care for and manage your conversational environment. You dwell in your conversations so make sure that the conversations you surround yourself with are positive and empowering. Make sure they support, represent and honor who you are.

Here are a few practical things you could do immediately to achieve this:

  1. Don’t participate or initiate gossip, especially when their focus is trashing other people that have a part in your life. Gossip may be valid, but it NEVER makes a difference.
  2. Have the courage to address issues with people quickly, directly and productively. Don’t let issues fester.
  3. Make requests and ask for things instead of complaining about things.
  4. Apologize and clean up your mess when you misbehave. Swallow your pride and don’t let your ego get in the way.
  5. Always have something to look forward to; a goal, project, milestone or event that you are working on that excites you in the present.
  6. Express gratitude, acknowledge and thank people around you every day, especially the people in your personal and professional environment that you respect and love. Don’t be lazy or stingy about that.
  7. Be thankful and count your blessings every day.





Become attached to your future, not your past

In 1899 Charles H. Duel, then Director of the U.S. Patent office said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

In 1895, Lord Kelvin who was President of the Royal Society said, “Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.”

In 1905, Grover Cleveland, then President of the United States said, “Sensible and responsible women do not wan to vote.”

In 1943, Thomas Watson, then Chairman of IBM said, “There is a world market for about five computers.”

We all say and think things everyday that we sincerely believe to be true, even though they are not true at all.

When we think or say positive things it could be motivating. Even though sometime it could cause us to underestimate what it takes to get something done. However, when we think or say negative things it often limits our view of what is possible and therefore it disempowers us and makes us less powerful.

Our thoughts are not objective. We see things and form views based on our pre-conceived notions. We don’t believe or disbelieve what we see. We actually see what we believe or disbelieve.

We seem to already know how good or bad the future is going to be even though the future hasn’t happened yet.

For example, when people start a new project they often say things like “this is going to be hard” or “it’s going to take a long time.” When they are searching for employment they often say “its really hard to find a job in this field or these days.” And when people are looking for a romantic relationship they often say “there aren’t many potential women or men out there given my age.” I hear these types of comments in my coaching work all the time.

These are all valid perspectives, but they are not facts or truths. And, if we get too attached to them, they often become self-fulfilling prophesies.

It’s as if we are driving toward our future, but without realizing it, we are looking into our rearview mirror. So, everything we see that seems to be in front of us is actually behind us. We think we are objectively working on our future, but we are actually stuck in our past. And, when we keep bumping into objects and/or having recurring accidents and issues we think: “this is just the way life is” or “this is as good as it gets.”

If we were actually driving our car on the highway and we realized we were looking at our rearview mirror, rather than the road in front of us we would immediately shift our view.

Could we do the same in our real life?

If we focused on our future without being distracted by our past we could strategize, plan and navigate more freely and effectively toward our objectives and commitments. We would probably also be able to avoid many of the hurdles and obstacles that impede our progress.

I often hear people say things like “forget the past, discard it, pretend like it didn’t happen…” when giving advice to others who are dealing with a challenging situation. I find that advice both silly and unnecessary. First, it is impossible to forget our past, especially when we have traumatic or memorable events in it. Second, it isn’t necessary to forget it in order to move forward with freedom and confidence.

We all have the ability to become attached to our future while having our past. Unfortunately, most people tend to live in the opposite way – they stay attached to their past and have their future.

When people who are attached to their past face new possibilities they tend to focus on the obstacles and reasons why things can’t be done or why things won’t work. When you try and enroll them in new ideas and possibilities they often respond with “Yes but…we can’t do this because… And, they often refer to the people who are initiating new possibilities as naïve and/or unrealistic.

People who stand in the future tend to be more optimistic and confident. I was coaching a group of managers from two functions in a known technology company who were working on improving their role definition and collaboration.  The dialogue quickly became extremely lively and flowing with ideas. People constantly built on each others’ thoughts and ideas by saying “Yes and…we could also do this and that.” This is a typical dynamic when people stand in the future.

We don’t have to forget or discard our past in order to become our future. In fact, we should always honor, respect and learn from past lessons. But, we shouldn’t cross the line and become too attached to our past. It will limit our ability to create and fulfill great things in our future.


If you want your strategy to work, don’t underestimate the critical role of middle managers

The following scenario unfolds every day in organizations of every size across the globe:  The CEO and his top management team unveil a new strategic plan or a new “change initiative” to dozens of executives and managers the next level down.  Senior management implores these mid-level managers to “get on board” the initiative because it is critical to the success – and sometimes even the survival – of the organization.  After the top executive presents the plan (often in an “all hands” meeting), the mid-level managers ramble out into the hall, grumbling about what they just heard.  The “un” words fill the air: “unrealistic,” “unfathomable,” “unnecessary,” “unclear,” “unwise.”

For years, mid-level managers have been expected to “get on board” their companies’ strategic initiatives without tough questions and, most of all, without dissent.  Today, however, a grudging attitude of “we’ll get in line even if we don’t like it” is actually worse than outright insubordination – especially for the senior executives.  If the senior leaders of the company become aware that some managers do not support their directives, they at least can take instant and corrective action.  Not so when middle managers nod “yes” and think and behave “no.”  It could take the CEO and his senior leaders months if not more time to realize the execution of his strategy is going awry.  And by that time, it may be too late.  A new product may be dead on arrival.  A major cost-cutting program may eke out incremental savings and fail to resolve a huge pricing disadvantage. A quality improvement initiative may be too little, too late to stave off mass customer defections.

Let’s be honest – every strategy is an educated guess about what a company must do to improve performance, and some are more educated than others.  Thus, given that no strategy is perfect, companies need middle managers and employees who will point out and correct the flaws quickly.  This is crucial today given that every company is part of the global economy with fierce competition.

The middle managers are so important because they sit at the critical junction between vision/strategy and execution. In addition, while senior executives tend to move around more frequently for their careers, many middle managers tend to stay in their roles for longer periods of time. This makes them more seasoned and knowledgeable about what it takes to make things happen in the organization.  If they get authentically on board with the company’s strategy there is a high chance of success because the middle managers will go out of their way to coordinate and drive effective actions, even in a highly political environment. But, if they are not genuinely on board, the middle managers will say all the right things but go through the motions, pay lip service and as a result momentum will be stagnated. I have seen this happen many times.

But even with the most ingenious and clearest of business strategies,  middle managers will never fully commit to the plan and go to all ends to make it work if they don’t believe or trust their leaders sincerity, courage, competence and concern.

  • Sincerity and honesty about what’s really going on in the company (including the reason why the firm needs a new direction) as well as what will happen next (good news and bad news).
  • Courage and resolve to hear the truth and make the hard decisions required for the strategy to work.
  • Competence in managing the strategy and the changes associated with it over time, including all the challenges and opportunities that could appear along the way.
  • Concern for those who will be affected by it – for the human consequences of the plan, as  all new strategies wreak major workplace changes.


As former General Electric CEO Jack Welch put it, “To have a fighting chance, companies need to get every employee, with every idea in their heads and every morsel of energy in their bodies, into the game.”  This means middle managers must be totally committed to their company’s strategy in order for it to work.


Managing your professional and personal life balance may be easier than you think

Like many of you, I have a very full and busy schedule interwoven with business and personal commitments, projects and activities.

I am passionate about having it all so I go out of my way to not miss out on personal commitments like exercising, spending time with my wife and kids, etc. because of career and professional priorities.

Managing everything, though is often like riding an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes it feels like I have too much to do and I am not managing to get it all done. And, at other times, even when the load is the same, I feel that I am completely on top of it and I have time to spare.

But, no matter how I feel during the roller coaster ride I seem to always manage to get everything done in a timely and workable manner. Some things seem to go smoothly from the start and other things tend to squeak, push and kick until the last minute. However, I don’t recall the last time I failed to achieve a significant project, deadline or milestone.

When it comes to managing our professional and personal life balance there seem to be two worlds occurring at the same time. One is the actual events and activities that happen. The other is all the noise and self-commentary that accompanies the activities, in our head.

For example, I have a routine practice of exercising ninety minutes every third day. I try and keep that routine religiously in order to stay in shape. There seem to always be good reasons why I don’t have time to do it. But, I still do it. The little voice in my head often goes off with things like: “Today is not a good day for exercising” “You are going to miss your deadline if you exercise today” and “You don’t feel like it anyway.”

When I buy into what my little voice is saying I usually get stressed. Sometimes I even decide to not exercise. When that happens I almost always feel defeated and disappointed.

I have learned from personal experience that there is no real direct correlation between how much I get done and the noise in my head about it. In other words, no matter how insistent and convincing my little voice is about how if I exercise I will miss my other commitments, in reality, most of the time that is not the case at all!

As a result, I have learned to not give credence to my noise. I just let the noise go on and I go ahead and do what I promised myself and planned to do anyway. I trust that if I stay true to my commitments in all areas I will always manage to get them all done. And, 95% of the time that is exactly what happens. In the other 5%, I typically end up renegotiating the deadline or in rare instances working longer hours to pull it off on time. But, the long hours routine rarely happens.

People often ask me for advice on how to manage their professional and personal life balance.

My answer is:

    1. Be clear about your long-term and short-term professional and personal commitments and objectives. The more you occupy your consciousness with, and focus your intention on your dreams, commitments and goals the less space there will be for noise.
    2. Schedule the activities associated with fulfilling them in your calendar – for example: for professional: writing the proposal, reading the report, returning calls. For personal: exercising 3 times a week, date night with your spouse, quality time with kids, etc.
    3. Keep your schedule, no matter what. Don’t cancel your exercise or time with your kids because of work load or because your little voice says you will fail.
    4. Say no to others who want to double book things with you while you have planned personal activities. Be kind and responsible about it and offer alternative times.Don’t buy into the noise. Just be aware of it and acknowledge it but don’t buy into it.
    5. Gather evidence that no matter how loud and convincing your voice is, it’s just noise and it has no bearing on your ability to get everything done.
    6. Obviously, things are never perfect. At times you will need to be flexible and innovative, including perhaps rescheduling things or working longer hours to get everything done. But if you stand for having it all, you manage your schedule with the relentless commitment to never sacrifice or sell out on anything important.
    7. And, if you make sure that all your professional and personal commitments are accounted for, you will find that the noise has less and less control over your actions. As a result your ability to have a well-balanced professional and personal life will keep growing.

    Try it and see how it works…

Take your head out of the sand

How many times have you participated in a meeting and halfway through it you realized that something important wasn’t being said openly and honestly. You knew that others knew it, too, but no one said anything?

How many times have you seen managers and employees sit around a meeting table, nodding in agreement as their leader explained the plan for a critical change initiative. Once the meeting was over, people pushed back their chairs and drifted back towards their desks. As they congregated at the water cooler, they opened up to each other: “What a pile of crap!”, “That’ll never happen!”, “I can hardly wait until the weekend?”

By the time these underhanded comments go viral throughout the organization cynicism and quiet rebellion are rampant. In this organization, people will definitely be paying lip service to the organizational mandate.

Meanwhile, their unsuspecting bosses leave the meeting imagining that they have done a wonderful job of communicating their strategy, and that people are on board.

Nothing will undermine a strategy or initiative more effectively than a lack of employee ownership and alignment. If employees are expressing skepticism and criticism about their leadership and the initiative in “around the water cooler” conversations that is a sure sign that they are not on-board, and not aligned with the company’s strategy.

So many leaders and managers simply don’t get it. They think that what people tell them to their face is what people really think. Sometime that is the simple truth. But, many times it isn’t.

There are two types of conversations taking place in every organization at all times – one is spoken; what people say out loud. These are often the politically correct things. The other is unspoken. It’s what people only say in private to their close friends and confidants. This is often referred to as the “background noise.”

When leaders don’t create an environment that fosters genuine openness and honesty people go underground to converse. Instead of addressing the important things out in the open they tend to cover their behinds, blame others for things that are not working well, or they simply become silently frustrated and resigned. When they have to, they pay lip service to the authorities, but they say only what they believe to be politically correct and safe.

As a result, far too many leaders simply have no idea what their people are really thinking and saying. In fact, many mistake fear and compliance for commitment.

It takes courage – on both sides – to create an environment of blunt honesty. Leaders must be willing to hear the unvarnished truth, and employees must be prepared to express it. It takes two to tango, however, this has to start with the leaders.

Leaders who learn to listen carefully and engage in blunt and meaningful dialogue with their people will find that the investment of time and effort is deeply worthwhile. Over time, people will rise to the occasion, abandon the background noise and start addressing challenges and opportunities head-on.

In fact, even if the strategy is not optimal, if managers and employees feel they can make a difference and their leaders really want to hear what they have to say, they will go out of their way to make sure it succeeds.

But, in order to succeed leaders have to take their heads out of the sand.

Five practical things any leader can do daily in order to create and sustain an environment of authentic and effective Accountability

In my last blog, Accountability; a privilege or burden? I discussed what accountability truly is or should be.  As promised, I want to share five practical things leaders and managers can do to create and sustain an environment of authentic and effective Accountability.

1.)Make sure people are engaged in setting the goals early on. This practice would most likely be applied differently depending on the size and how disperse the team is. In a small team, it is easy to engage people in the strategy or goal-setting exercise. In a large organization, this principle will have to be implemented in steps. Step one would be to get the entire senior team engaged and aligned. Step two; bring the middle managers on board. And step three; update and include the rest of the team. The application may be different, but the principle of engaging people in the goals early on is always relevant. This is because the more people feel engaged in setting the goals the more they will feel a sense of personal ownership and accountability toward them.

2.) Promote a culture of open, honest, authentic and courageous communication. Where people feel they can speak their mind, ssssespecially addressing what is not working they tend to naturally gravitate toward feeling and behaving like loyal owners of the business. Regardless of what senior leaders may say, people will only speak up if they believe their leaders genuinely want them to. To do that leaders have to start with themselves. They need to show that they are open to honest dialogue, including feedback and criticism about themselves.

3.)Instill the language of accountability as the norm. The language of accountability sounds and feels very different than the typical language of compliance that permeates throughout most organizations. In an environment of compliance people have plenty of tolerance for, and indulgence in excuses, justifications, blame and reasons why things can’t be done or why they didn’t get done. In contrast, the language of accountability is all about clarity of action. People make clear requests and promises. And these get responded to with clear and authentic acceptances, declines or counter-offers. People always know where things stand and they value integrity and honesty over appearances and political gain.

4.) Deal with failures, mistakes and shortfalls in an empowering way. In most organizations when a team under performs or fails people tend to look for someone or something to blame. The problem is that when people feel there is a hunt going on to find a scape-goat they react by hiding, protecting their behinds, even lying. As a result, teams often don’t get to the source and root-cause of the failure in the first place, so they find themselves repeating the same failures. If you want to create an environment of authentic accountability deal with all failures, mistakes and shortfalls only in an empowering way – don’t entertain the ‘blame game’. In fact, don’t be concerned with ‘whose fault it is’. Instead, be obsessed with learning from past failures and correcting the issues. Ask your team questions like: “What was missing?” “What was in the way?” and “What can we change, correct and improve?”. You’ll see that people will be excited to contribute to the investigation and as a result you’ll come up with breakthroughs AND you’ll strengthen people’s sense of ownership and accountability to your vision.

5.) Highlight, recognize and celebrate displays of accountability. Most leaders don’t do a great job of acknowledging and recognizing their team members for a job well done on any day. I am not referring to the formal corporate human resources recognition programs that occur at best once a quarter or a couple of times a year. I am talking about creating an environment of day-to-day verbal recognition. People respond extremely well to genuine recognition. It makes them feel noticed, appreciated and valued and that causes them to want to do and contribute even more. If you want to create a powerful culture of accountability go out of your way to recognize small, medium or large displays of ownership and accountability. Make it a daily routine and practice.


Accountability: a privilege or burden?

Accountability, like Empowerment and Ownership became a management fad in the early 2000s. And, like Empowerment and Ownership, in most organizations Accountability has become a hollow and empty slogan that prompts eye-rolling and sarcastic comments. People often wave the “A” word around when they want others to get things done or more regularly when they are frustrated with others for not getting things done. However, in my thirty-plus years of working with organizations I haven’t seen either make a difference.

The intention behind this concept has always been pure and noble: To create an environment that supports people to be clear and honest about what they will deliver and encourages them to do what they say they will. Accountability has always had the intent and flavor of enabling people to rise above challenging circumstances and overcome obstacles. It has always been about substituting excuses and justifications with relentless action that achieves clear results.

Unfortunately, in most organizations people turned Accountability into something unconstructive. When people say: “They need to take accountability!” they often mean: “They need to deliver or bare the consequence.” And, by bare the consequence they mean “be punished”, or often more specifically “be fired.”

In fact in many organizations Accountability is referred to as “Single throat to choke”. Are you surprised why people would not be excited to volunteer to be that single throat to choke?

Webster’s doesn’t help either. Its definition of Accountability is: “Liability to be called on to render an account; the obligation to bear the consequences for failure to perform as expected.”

But, Accountability was meant to represent a positive and productive space; encouraging people to believe in the cause and feel personally compelled to go out of their way to drive progress and results. It is supposed to encourage people at all levels of an organization to behave as if they are the owners of the business.

Accountability comes from the phrase “You can count on me”. And, that statement is a self-proclamation. It stems from and evokes the sentiment of privilege and opportunity, not obligation and/or liability.

When people view Accountability as a burden and/or liability it provokes the wrong behavior. In fact, in most organizations the default mode around Accountability is one of fear.

In an environment of fear people play it safe, they hold back, they don’t speak up, they don’t take risks, they protect themselves. And, when things go wrong they are quick to excuse themselves and blame others. They miss the opportunity to learn from failures for a better future.

All this is 100% the opposite of what Accountability was supposed to be!

Any strategy or plan is only as good as people’s relationship with it. Creating a genuine environment of Accountability goes a long way to enable people at all levels to establish a powerful relationship to their company or team’s strategy or plan.

In my next blog I’ll write about how to create a culture of genuine Accountability – the way it was meant to be.

In fact, I will share: Five practical things leaders or managers could do in order to create and sustain an environment of authentic and effective Accountability.

What to expect if you want to reinvent yourself

As a part of my job, I have the privilege to coach many people at all levels of organizations; people who want to become more powerful and effective professionally and personally.

Most of the people I interact with are already very successful in what they do. But they all want to take their game to the next level; they want to change or improve something about themselves. Or as I refer to it – they want to reinvent themselves.

Reinventing ourselves is not easy. In fact, most people don’t stay the course and succeed. Have you ever heard the cynical view: “You can’t change the leopard’s spots?”

There’s definitely a science and an art to taking yourself to the next level. And while each person and his or her circumstances are different, there are some common elements that everyone could benefit from. So, if you want to reinvent yourself you need to know what to expect and how to deal with it. You need to:

1-    Tolerate things getting worst before they get better – I often tell people, “when you take a stand about reinventing yourself the universe listens and then says: “let’s see if you are serious about this.” To check you out, it throws you some initial challenges. If you overcome the ‘small’ stuff it sends you ‘medium’ level barriers. And if you stay the course and overcome these it sends you even bigger ones. But, if you overcome all three the universe concludes: “Yes, you are for real” and it starts sending you spiritual and material support to fulfill your commitment. The problem is that most people don’t stick around long enough to gain the rewards.

2-    Act and behave in counter-intuitive ways – There is a phase in the caterpillar transformation into a butterfly when it emerges from the cocoon, that life seems up side down. It still thinks as a slow crawling creature and suddenly it has only two legs and two big heavy wings on its back. What a burden! For a high strung, aggressive and driven person, staying calm and not immediately responding to a critical situation could feel quite counter-intuitive. It’s like when you learn to ski; you start falling to one side and intuitively you want to swing away. But, you are supposed to lean into the fall rather than away from it. For a driven person, staying calm feels like “laziness, complacency, dropping the ball or slacking off.” But, in order to reinvent yourself, you have to stay the course and trust the process.

3-    Stay courageous – It’s scary to reinvent your self. You are in new territory. You go through a roller coaster of emotions including fear, hopelessness and resignation. And, your mind constantly tries to persuade you to draw back, saying things like: “It wasn’t a good idea!”, “You were in over your head!”, and “What were you thinking?” So, you need to stay present and “out of your head.” And, keep reminding yourself to focus on making progress, not achieving perfection. Winston Churchill said: “Success is moving from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm”. He meant that courageous leaders stay the course regardless of their emotions or circumstances. This is required in any reinvention process.

4-    ‘Fake it till you make it’ – When I was a junior consultant at the beginning of my career, I had to wear a suit and tie to all my client engagements. I came from a small village where the dress code was extremely casual. In the first year of my career, I kept having this nagging feeling that I was out of my league, out of place and a phony. But, over time the image and role grew on me, or I grew on them. And, I started feeling at home with my new identity and role. I have experienced this cycle many times since. So, in order to succeed, you need to box yourself in, say what you’ll do and do it regardless of how you feel, even if it feels robotic or contrived. And if your mind plays tricks on you, like mine does, just say back: “Thank you for sharing” and keep going.

Do you love your life?

In one of my earlier blogs “Living Courageously Through Journaling” I wrote about the benefits of journaling. This is a practice and discipline that I have adopted and taken on periodically over the last 25 years. I pick it up especially in times of transition, change, decisions or simply when I want to clear my mind and reflect on recent events.

One of the things I have been regularly writing about is what I feel most grateful and fortunate about in my life. In fact, every day when I write I start with: “I feel most grateful for” and then I let my writing flow from there. And, I list at least 10 things I genuinely feel fortunate and blessed about. Sometimes many more. I don’t limit, restrict or target the areas; anything goes. I include things about “who I am”, “what I do”, “who’s in my life” and “what I have”. And, what I love about doing this is that I can’t lie or pretend. I only write things I really feel grateful about.

I have found this exercise to be very energizing, empowering and enlightening.

Coming up with 10 things or more every day has really been easy for me because I love my life. But, if someone doesn’t love their life, or if they don’t love important aspects of their life, for example their work, health, marriage or finances, could they also easily come up with 10 things every day that they feel genuinely grateful for? It seems that it would be harder.

So, my question to you is:

Could you list at least 10 things you genuinely feel grateful, fortunate and blessed for every day?

If your answer is yes, you probably love your life. If you are finding it hard to come up with 10 things every day, you are either too resigned or there are some things you need to change in your life.

To test yourself I recommend you take this practice on for 30 days – every day at the beginning or end of the day write at the top of your page: “I feel most grateful for:” and then list at least 10 things you feel grateful, fortunate and blessed for.

If this is hard for you in the beginning, it will become easier as you practice this.

Raising kids or raising parents?

I recently had lunch with a client and during our conversation he shared with me some personal challenges he and his wife have been going through with their oldest child.

As a father of three, I could relate to his anguish as my wife and I went through our share of challenges with some of our kids, too. Because my kids are older now so I could give him some perspective and advice from our journey.

This weekend is Father’s day so I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate this blog to this topic.

I shared with him that about 10 years ago, when our older kids were teenagers, my wife and I had a few sessions with a parenting coach. She helped us a great deal by giving us a set of principles from the Adlerian method (http://www.alfredadler.edu/about/theory) for managing our relationship with our kids, which I have never forgotten since. She said:

“If you want your relationship with your kids to works always make sure that:

  1. They experience unconditional love,
  2. There is mutual respect in the relationship,
  3. You have faith in your kids and the relationship with them.”

For me these meant:

  1. No matter what they do, how they behave and how we feel about them, always make sure they know that we love them unconditionally.
  2. Respect them and respect our selves. Make sure we never disrespect them, but also that we don’t do things that disrespect us and will cause us to feel resentful later.  And,
  3. No matter how bad things may seem – how miss-behaved or off-track our kids may seem at certain periods, always have faith that they and our relationship with them will eventually turn out well.

Over the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to confront, adopt and apply each of these principles many times. And, that made me a better parent and father.

The first principle seemed very basic but still required awareness and focus.

Many times when my kids did something wrong like come home late or lie about something I would reprimand them. I am a very passionate person; even when I don’t intend to raise my voice, I raise my voice. In fact my entire family is passionate, so in our family we do everything – the good and bad – very passionately and loudly. So, the first principle made me more conscious of not coming across too harsh so they always understood and believed that I loved them unconditionally.

The second principle was more challenging, especially the latter part. I found the part about ‘always respecting my kids’ straightforward. But, the part about ‘respecting our selves’ took my wife and I a bit of time to fully internalize. Perhaps because of our upbringing, we have the tendency to always want to give everything to our kids and never deny them. So we would sometime go-along with things like kids parties at our house, doing car-pools both ways and buying things our kids didn’t really need because others had them, without truly agreeing. The second principle taught us to say no to things that didn’t work for us. This actually strengthened our relationship with our kids because when we respected our own boundaries, they started to respect them as well.

The third principle was the hardest for me to internalize. I understood the concept but living it was challenging. When my oldest daughter was struggling in high school, overweight and with a low self-esteem, ‘having faith’ seemed counter-intuitive. At the time my skeptical thoughts were: “this may work for others, but not for us”. But, this principle does work and I have experienced it personally. To make a long story short – 2 years after high-school my daughter came to us and initiated going to college. 3 years after that she started to workout with a trainer and lost 95 lbs. She’s kept her weight off for the last 1.5 years and is now in the best physical and mental shape of her life. And, our relationship has never been better.

I have shared these principles with so many friends and clients over the years and most people resonated with these immediately. In fact, some found them as relevant, insightful and transformational as we did. It seems that everyone who has kids deals with these type of issues in some way at some point along the way.

When my first daughter was born 26 years ago it changed my life for obvious reasons. I know I am a good father, but like with other things in my life I have had to work at it and reinvent myself along the way, which made me a better person.

For me raising kids has always been more about raising parents.