INPowered leaders are possibility thinkers.
In a previous post, I defined a leader as someone who takes us places we cannot, or will not, go by ourselves. We need them to show us the way forward–to a better place.
I’m not interested in a leader who says, let’s stay here and not do anything to improve our circumstances. American humorist, Will Rogers, said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
For me, an INPowered leader is asking and answering three questions:
- What if?
- Why not?
- How can we (I)?
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and, at last, you create what you will.” (George Bernard Shaw)
Asking, “What if?” is magical. Think of all the things we take for granted in our daily lives that began with the question, “What if?”
It’s a gateway question that opens up the imagination to other possibilities.
- What if man could fly?
- What if we had a network of super highways making it easier to travel coast to coast and border to border?
- What if we went to the moon?
- What if we were able to build an information superhighway using the world wide web and the internet?
- What if we had a wireless way to communicate by telephone?
What if . . .
What, “What if” questions can you ask about your own dreams and desires?
Any leader of mine won’t get my attention unless they offer me, “What if?” scenarios they will pursue.
Many people see things as they are and ask, “Why?” I dream of things that could be and ask, “Why not?”
This question is a call to action. There is no reason why not. Let’s go for it.
The question assumes permission to move forward. Even if there are obstacles, nay-sayers, doubters, and challenges, we move forward, confident that a way will be found.
Leaders lead. They don’t sit around waiting for permission from those who are going nowhere. Neither do they wait for a perfectly failsafe, no risk guarantee before taking the first step.
“Why not” leaders are confident in their ability to marshall the talents and resources of those around them to create solutions as they move forward. That’s why I’m going to be on-board with that kind of a leader.
How can we (I)?
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” (English proverb)
I like solution finders. I try to be one.
This question puts the imagination into action. It is the natural progression of the first two questions. If I’m focused on how I can, I’m not concerned about why I can’t.
I’m an unabashed Star Trek fan. Captain James T. Kirk is undaunted when a seemingly impossible challenge confronts him. He refuses to hear that the challenge cannot be overcome, and he warps into hyper-possibility mode to solve it even though his super analytical sidekick, Spock, is reciting the probabilities for failure.
Sometimes Kirk’s solution comes out of a failed effort, but the solution would not have presented itself had Kirk not tried and failed.
INPowered leaders are continually seeking how they can succeed.
“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.” (J.K. Rowling, creator and author of Harry Potter)
It’s not magic. Maybe all you want is to be more successful in commanding your own life. The same questions will help you move forward.
What if? Why not? How can I?
You’re on your way to being
Garland making “I” contact. Campaigning for U.S. Congress (2000)
Charlie stood in front of the banquet room. He was the keynoter for our civic club’s regional meeting. Charlie was know for his ability to recruit new members, and fittingly, his topic was about recruiting.
“Why did you join this organization? Come on, tell me. Why did you join this organization?” Charlie yanked the mic from the podium and charged into the audience, going person-to-person with the question.
“Because I wanted to give to my community,” one attendee stated.
“A good cause, but the wrong answer,” Charlie replied. Obviously, he sought the correct answer.
“Because I wanted to grow professionally,” another offered when Charlie thrust the mic in front of him.
“A good reason, but the wrong answer,” Charlie repeated.
“Because I liked what the organization stands for,” another attempted.
“I like what this organization stands for, too, but the wrong answer,” Charlie reiterated.
Then Charlie squared up in front of the room and panned the audience. “Let me tell you why I joined this organization nearly ten years ago,” By this time everyone was eager to hear Charlie’s correct answer. “I joined because a friend asked me to join.”
Charlie explained that all the other reasons were valid and important, but the most important reason anyone participates is because they were asked.
The secret is face-to-face “I” contact–connecting personally. The desire to connect is both natural and healthy, and the invitation to join is INPowering.
INPowered leaders invite people to join. They include others, because they know connecting involves our total selves: physical, emotional, intellectual, and psychological. Our need to be a member of a community is part of our primal nature that helps us survive.
Community members always look at a leader for direction, support, and safety. Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones studied what followers want from leaders and identified community as one of four needs along with authenticity, significance, and excitement (Read their book, Why Should Anyone be Led by YOU?). Group members want to connect with the leader as personally as possible. Not just through ideas, but by touching them, and by being in their presence: “I” contact.
On a personal note, I know from first-hand experience that politicians like to connect in person with voters. It’s important to establish the “I” contact, and to ask for their vote.
In politics, as in all institutions and relationships, when there is no “I-to-I” contact, we cannot really share ideas, or workout solutions to complex problems, or resolve conflicts. Those who profess to be leaders, but who will not sit down “I-to-I” to establish collaborative dialogue are not leading anyone anywhere.
We have so much technology that lets us reach out in ways never before possible. This is one of them. But it’s not a substitute for “I” contact–face-to-face interaction where people can be totally present with each other and engage “I-to-I.”
Get out there and connect.
Establish “I” contact, and be
I’m about to hit the 6.5 decade mark, and I still haven’t reached my potential. And I’m happy about that!
The reason for that, is the more I experience, and the more I learn, and the more I succeed, the more potential I have. I was far closer to reaching my potential at 21 than I am today.
It’s more accurate to say that I keep growing my potential.
Earlier this week I read Paul Angone’s new book 101 Secrets for Your Twenties. A 20-something blogger I follow put me on to it. (Thanks, Gen Y Girl.) My take-away from reading through his “secrets,” is that I could apply most of them in every decade of my life. They’re not just for the 20s.
Looking back, I would say Angone’s secret #6 is the most meaningful to me, at least as I write this post: “Life will never feel like it’s supposed to.”
Why this one? Because I kept hearing all my life that I’m supposed to strive to reach my potential. I’m supposed to want more, have more, demand more, become more. More, more, more. Better, better, better. Win win, win.
The reason life will never feel like it’s supposed to is because we listened early in life to others telling us what our lives were supposed to be. That advice came from loving and caring parents, family, and friends. They told us so because they were told the same things when they were small.
Later, that advice came from those who had something to sell us. They defined the good life as it was supposed to be, showed us photos and movies of it, and told us we were missing out if we didn’t have it. Just about everyone buys into that story to some degree.
Then, somewhere along the way I learned the difference between acquiring abundance and living abundantly. I learned that living an INPowered life meant that I got to decide what success means to me instead of chasing after someone else’s idea of what it is supposed to be.
What is life supposed to feel like? I thought I knew in my 20s. I pursued it in my 30s. It eluded me through my 40s. I grasped it in my 50s for a while. And in my 60s, I realized I had it at my fingertips all along in my 20s and let it slip through.
What is life supposed to feel like?
It’s supposed to feel like however you feel when you are doing what you love to do—what ever it is that springs from the essence of who you are in the depths of your soul.
It’s supposed to feel like how you feel when you are in the company of those you care about and who care about you.
It’s supposed to feel like however you feel when you are proud of who you are.
It’s supposed to feel like however it feels when you finish the day knowing you have more potential than you had at the beginning of it.
As that happens for you,
it’s supposed to feel like you are
the life you choose.
I stood in the hall of my home and listened to my teenage daughter complain about her life. How she didn’t ever get to do what she wanted, or that friends had done her wrong, or that no one understood her (especially her mom and me), and, on and on.
Finally, I interrupted her lament saying, “I know, I know, I know. I was sixteen once, and I remember. It’ll be OK. Someday you’ll see.”
All 4’ 10” of her (at the time) placed her hands on her hips, widened her stance, pursed her lips, glared up at me, jutting her chin out, and said, “Well, Dad. You ain’t 16 NOW! And you ain’t a girl.”
I was trying to be sympathetic and reassuring, but regardless of any advice I offered, all she heard me say was, “Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah.”
There was no way I could completely identify with her situation at the time, as she was experiencing it, because I wasn’t her.
So, I’ve had a career as a consultant (a.k.a. the outside guy people can complain to about crappy jobs and lousy bosses). I stand in front of the room, hang out in the break area, visit at their work station, get cornered in the parking lot, or in the rest room during breaks, and I hear the lamenting, and I do my best to share the experience and knowledge I gleaned from thousands of such conversations and offer my encouragement, and I wonder if all they hear from me is, “Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah.”
Then, I reflected on times when well meaning friends listened patiently to my bellyaching, then offered their advice, and all I heard them say was, “Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah.”
Here is the truth about that, as I have come to believe it. Most of us aren’t interested in advice; we want approval and justification for the way we are acting. We want it our way.
Then one day I realized that embedded in that, “Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah,” advice, there were some words of wisdom and insight coming from someone who cared and who wanted to help me through my misery.
OK. So they were’t exactly me, and didn’t know exactly why I felt as I did, and they didn’t know exactly why I felt so justified in my frustration and anger, because regardless of the adage, no one can walk a mile in my shoes because they aren’t me.
I came to my senses. I accepted that I am personally accountable and responsible for my life choices. If I were unhappy, I could do something about it starting with listening to my friends’ advice, seeking that kernel of truth that applied to me at that time.
The day that I decided to live mindfully in the present and to take affirmative action to make my life and relationships better, I began living INPowered to have a better life.
I hope this hasn’t come across as, “Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah.”
Choose to be
How do you seek clarity in your life — in both your personal and professional experiences? That’s the theme of my second book in the series, Marcus Winn’s workplace story of an INPowering life.
Marcus Winn’s Quest for Clarity is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com.
In this episode: Just when he thinks all is going well with his team, Marcus Winn gets a frantic call from his project manager. His project is in jeopardy of losing its funding, but no one can give him a clear reason why. In spite of incomplete and murky information, Marcus must find a way to rally his team to justify continuing the project. He sets out on a quest for clarity and discovers the elements of powerfully communicating clear goals and expectations. In the course of his quest, Marcus is confronted to clarify more issues than he had intended to explore. When it gets personal, he finds that the same four questions apply.
Check it out. And remember