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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.”

Is your Leadership Team making a positive or negative difference?

Any organization is a reflection of its leaders and leadership team (LT). If the leaders build a strong and genuine team dynamic of trust, unity, communication and ownership among themselves, these characteristics will be cascaded through the veins of the organization and internalized in its culture and DNA. If the leaders operate as individual silos, not a team, their people will follow suit. And, if they have trust issues among themselves, harbor resentments or are the source of negativity or victim behaviors, the same issues, sentiments and behaviors will be inculcated throughout their organization.

And, it doesn’t matter what leaders say in public. Even if it’s all the politically correct things, their people will watch their behaviors, pick up on subtle remarks and body language, and line up accordingly.

The LT is always an amplifier of sentiments, conversations and energy in the organization. Leaders’ behavior either amplifies the constructive, productive conversations that make a difference, or it amplifies and fuels the negative ones, which undermine and weaken; they are either the source of the solution or a big part of the problem.

Unfortunately, in so many cases the senior leaders amplify the negative sentiments and conversations. They initiate, express and participate in negative conversations, and they pass down negative and divisive messages to their people. I have heard managers and employees complain about this so many times, and I have seen this dynamic with my own eyes.

For example, I was working inside a large telecom company who acquired a smaller, more entrepreneurial, startup type company. As with most mergers and acquisitions the integration was done on paper but not in the hearts and minds of the people who had to implement it, especially not the people who joined the larger telecom firm from the smaller acquired company. As I walked the halls of the acquired company’s offices and sat in their meetings I could hear the resentments and negative and toxic feelings about the acquirer voiced in almost every conversation. Many of the complaints were legitimate and correct. However, given the negative environment, no one was collaborating to figure out how to fix the issues. And, even the senior leaders from the acquired company who agreed to, and gained from the acquisition, and now sat on the LT of the acquirer were expressing, engaging in, and fueling the negative and unproductive sentiments, behind the scenes.

Even when the LT members are not the originators of negative sentiments and conversations, they have the power to transform these into constructive conversations that address the issues, change things and make a difference. But, in many cases they avoid their responsibility and opportunity to do so. I guess cynicism is easier and more familiar, even if it is undermining and dysfunctional.

It seems that leaders often just don’t realize the positive or negative impact of their behaviors and conversations on their environment. They don’t focus on this topic hence they don’t see it, or take responsibility for its consequences.

If LT members periodically answered the question “Are we making a positive, neutral or negative impact through our behavior?” and perhaps also asked people around them for honest feedback on this, they would be more inclined to adjust their behaviors and conversations, especially if they realized that the cost associated with negative or neutral is dear.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Being a leader in business and life means adopting a certain point of view about people, circumstances, opportunities and challenges. It means being oriented around conversations that generate and empower new possibilities and action, rather than cynicism, resignation and excuses about all circumstances. It means always being the champions for “what’s possible” and “how can we make it work” rather than “why we can’t” and “why it won’t work”.

Every point of view or paradigm is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Have you ever noticed that when we have a point of view that something isn’t possible we always gather evidence and proof in our circumstances and environment to support and prove that point of view? And, if we happen to change our mind, even 180 degrees, and adopt a different point of view, we instantly can find new evidence and proof in the exact same environment and circumstances for our new point of view?

We often say “I can’t believe what I see”. But, in fact we don’t believe or disbelieve what we see. We see what we believe or disbelieve. We don’t really see with our eyes, we see with our paradigm or point of view. That’s why two people can participate in the same “physical” circumstance or situation and experience it drastically differently, often contradicting.

In our work and life we are always invested in proving right one point of view or another. Sometime we do it consciously, but more often we do it unconsciously. It’s the nature of being human.

I often interact with people who have a negative or cynical point of view about areas that are important to them in their work or personal life.  They seem to strongly believe that “they can’t have it all” or “they will never fully get what they want” or “things won’t simply workout smoothly and great for them.” And, unintentionally they constantly prove that point of view right. I can see it in their attitude and hear it in their conversations: every time things don’t work out great for them they say or imply “you see, I knew it.” or “you see I told you so.” And, every time something great does happen to them they view it as a “one off” and they are “cautiously optimistic” at best about their fortune.

Most people, including very successful and accomplished people, tend to be more skeptical and even cynical about “having it all.” They often explain their point of view as “being realistic”.

However, there are people who stand for a drastically different point of view. Their genuine life view is that “I can have it all,” “I can have my work and life be extraordinary with no compromise.” And, their life is about validating and proving that point of view right. Every time something significant or insignificant happens to them that is consistent with their point of view they “high five” it and think or say “See, life works.” And every time they don’t get what they want they view it as “temporary” or a “one off,” and they try to learn something worthwhile from it to strengthen their point of view.

One of my clients is the recently appointed CEO of a known brokerage company. He took on a significant change initiative to elevate his company from seventh to one of the top four companies in his market place. In a recent bid for a mega deal his team lost the bid after making it to the final short list of two contestants out of eight. While many of his team members seemed discouraged by the loss, he felt extremely proud and encouraged by the fact that his team made it that far. For him the fact that his team made it to the top two only signified proof that they were in fact on track to achieve their goal.

If you accept the premise that we are constantly proving right our points of view, and therefore our points of view are always self fulfilling prophecies, you have a choice about what point of view you will prove right in your work and life. Contrary to what many people may think there are no “right,” “true,” or “correct” points of view. There are only “empowering” or “disempowering” ones; points of view or paradigms that enable more possibilities, ideas and dreams, and ones that shut down possibilities, ideas and dreams, and explain and justify why these can’t and won’t come true.

I stand for the point of view that everyone deserves and can build a life that reflects the point of view of “having it all” and “fulfilling all our most precious commitments and dreams.”  So, my own professional and personal life is about proving that point of view right.

What point of view are YOU proving right in YOUR life? 

Photo by: John Liu

Living Courageously Through Journaling

My last series of blog posts focused on living courageously: doing something everyday that scares us, eliminating cynical and jealous thoughts, making time for self-improvement.

Courageous living means identifying your dreams and goals and taking an honest look at the situations and circumstances between you and your dreams. A great place to start your journey to a more courageous life is in a daily journal.

The Benefits of Journaling

Scores of studies have been done on the benefits of daily journaling. By turning into ourselves and disclosing our feelings and thoughts in a safe environment, we are giving ourselves permission to process, reflect on, and take responsibility for our actions and reactions. Daily journaling has been shown to relieve stress and ease psychological strain. It’s also a very effective tool for realizing our subconscious goals and determining what’s really standing in our way to living a courageous life. Journaling is a way to regain control of emotions in a safe environment, which instills a feeling of “powerfulness”, even mastery over our emotions.

I consider myself a very lucky man. I have an extraordinary marriage, a loving family, great friends, I am healthy and in good physical shape, I have built a very successful international consulting business, and overall I am a very passionate, energized, positive and optimistic person. But, like many other successful people my life is often very intense.

The opportunities and challenges associated with providing high quality services to my clients while continuing to generate and grow my business and make the time to keep myself and my family in great shape often keeps me up at night.  And beyond the day-to-day I often think about my goals, how to achieve them and how create the next levels of success.

I have people in my life who serve as sounding boards for bouncing ideas, and clarifying thoughts. However, given everyone’s hectic schedules we are not always able to have these enlightening conversations on a real-time basis. Journaling has been a very powerful and useful way for me to clarify my own thoughts, gain insights into what I need to do about challenges and opportunities that are on my mind, create the next steps in personal and professional areas that are important to me and sometimes simply clearing any clutter that accumulates in my head from time to time.

My wife introduced me to journaling more than 15 years ago and I have been practicing ever since. I don’t do it every day, only in periods in which I feel the need and desire to stay focused, centered and objective. I have also recommended the practice to my clients on occasion, and they’ve always acknowledged that this has made a difference for them too.

How to Get Started

Daily journaling is like any other habit; you acquire it through practice. For some, the blank page may instill a sense of fear. Where do I start? What should I say? The beautiful thing about journaling is that it doesn’t matter where you start or what you say.  This is your own, private space to say whatever comes to mind.

An easy place to start is, “Right now, I feel ________. “ or  “Today, this happened and this is how I feel about it.”  Start small, a few sentences, or give yourself a time limit.

Do not worry about being judged, sounding foolish, or making mistakes. This is your domain. Be courageous! And most importantly, be as honest as you can in that moment. It takes courage to admit to yourself when you’ve been living cynically. But when you journal about your feelings and about your situations, you can identify the patterns of behavior that are keeping you from living a truly courageous life.

Join the Conversation

What experiences do you have with journaling? What’s keeping you from trying it? Or if you are an avid journal keeper, what benefits have you noticed?