INPowered accountability is taking personal responsibility to find ways to make things better, acting on it, and getting results.
We usually visualize an INPowered person as outgoing, aggressive, and going a mile-a-minute.
If you had ever met my grandfather, you would not have described him in those terms. He was mild, unassuming, kind, introverted, of few words, and never in a hurry so far as I could tell.
He was a farmer. He worked his 320 acre farm in southwest Oklahoma for more than forty years.
And he was definitely INPowered, by my definition. Here’s why.
He showed up every day for a work day that began before dawn and did what was required to make his farm work that day.
I never heard him complain about how hot or cold the temperature was, although he did wish for more rain at times. He planted when it was time to plant. He harvested when it was time to harvest. He cared for the farm animals and was ever watchful for their good health. He built and mended fences. He serviced his farm equipment. He did it every day, without fail.
He was steadfast, persistent, patient, and ultimately accountable for everything that happened on his farm. The results, good or bad, were his doing.
He never made excuses. Never!
And he still found time to help a neighbor when they needed it.
His secret: his focus was his 320 acre domain.
What I learned, looking back on his example, is to know my domain. Own it, and focus on it.
When I am clear about what I am responsible for–the boundaries of my domain–I feel more INPowered to make things happen.
There are no secrets to accountability. You show up and own your responsibility, or you don’t. It’s just that simple.
One day I was lamenting to a friend how I felt stuck on a project. It was out of my control. It wasn’t going well, and it wasn’t my fault. I did not want to accept the blame.
She told me to stop bellyaching about what I could not do and be accountable for doing what I could do.
After thinking about it, I was able to focus on my part of the project, my domain, and take the next steps to move forward. I also saw how to help a partner on the project, a neighbor so-to-speak, and it all worked out. We got results.
Thanks, granddad, for your powerful, but low-key, example of what it means to be accountable.
Just showing up and engaging everyday is a good step toward being
I watch a young father standing chest deep in the community swimming pool coaxing his apprehensive three-year old son, standing on the edge of the pool.
“Come on big guy. Jump. Jump in Daddy’s arms. I’ll catch you. It’ll be OK. Come on. Trust me.”
After several tentative and apprehensive squats without a launch, the boy finally leaps into his dad’s outstretched arms. Dad catches his son, keeping his head from going under. The excited boy wipes the splashed water from his face, and squeals with delight, “Do it again. Catch me again, Daddy.”
And he does. Over and over until Dad has to call time out to rest. Trust has been earned for a lifetime.
You are trustworthy when others believe in you enough to never doubt they will be safe in your care–with both their heart and their life.
I ask participants in my INPowerment LABS, “Why does an organization need managers?”
They offer many good responses such as, managers provide direction, managers set goals, managers make sure everyone is doing a good job, etc.
Then I give them my reason: because those who own the organization (or business) cannot run it by themselves. They identify managers to help.
I ask, “Why do they pick the people they pick to become managers?”
The class usually gets around to saying, “They pick people they can trust.”
Management at all levels is an entrustment. Managers are entrusted with people and resources to create value for the organization.
This is where the train often leaves the tracks. Where managers lose credibility.
They forget their duty is an entrustment and begin treating it like an entitlement. When they do so, they forget the single most important rule of trust, which is to keep the followers safe: to put the safety and interest of the employees ahead of their own.
Once trust is lost, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to regain. Trust me . . . I speak from experience.
Gallup’s most recent report on the American workplace reports that 20% of the workforce is actively dis-engaged and another 50% is present, but not inspired. What’s behind the disconnect? Gallup concludes that the number one reason for employees’ lack of engagement in the workplace is terrible managers. Click this link to download the report. Terrible managers do not rate high in trust building with employees.
In another study, Interaction Associates (IA) reported that between 2009 and 2012 trust levels of business leaders fell:
“[R]atings for organizational leaders declined by 10–17% in measures of: modeling and reflecting company values; demonstrating a commitment to employee development; and effectively communicating the organization’s vision, mission, and strategy.” (p. 3) Click here for the full report.
But it’s not all bad news.
When IA looked at companies they identified as high performing, they concluded that having the trust of employees and customers was a major factor in their success. Their follow up study in 2013 identified five actions leaders consistently took in high performing companies.
1. Set employees up for success by providing tools, resources, and learning opportunities (41%).
2. Provide adequate information around decisions (41%).
3. Seek input prior to making decisions (40%).
4. Consistently act in alignment with the company’s values (35%).
5. Give employees an inspiring, shared purpose to work toward (28%).
It’s been my experience that employees want to make the leap. They want to unleash their creative energy. But they aren’t sure their leaders will support their initiative and courage. They are standing on the bank afraid to jump. They just don’t believe it when leaders say, “Trust me,” because they are not seeing leaders inspiring confidence.
The remedy: leaders who tell the truth, live up to the entrustment they have been granted, and do what they promise. As Interaction Associates concluded, the high performing organizations “are paying more attention to customer and employee relationships than at any other time in the history of our survey.” (2012, p. 9)
Trustworthiness is INPowering, and trustworthy leaders are
Look for the possibilities of living. When you start seeing how your life can be enlarged by those possibilities, you can start believing it can happen to you.
When my son was twelve, we signed him up for guitar lessons. The teacher gave him scales to practice and chords to learn on the acoustic guitar we bought him.
It didn’t take.
When we moved to a new city that year he did not want to continue the lessons. We dropped the subject.
Until one day he told me he wanted to take guitar lessons again. I reminded him he lost interest in the lessons we had paid for earlier.
“No, Dad. Not that kind of guitar,” he protested. “Electric guitar. I want to play in a rock band.”
“Yeah. OK. We’ll see,” I said. My way of dropping the subject.
Then one afternoon he came home after school and handed me a form. “Sign this,” he ordered.
“What is it?” I asked, thinking it might be some disciplinary form sent home by the principal.
“It’s permission for me to work at the video store around the corner. I can begin working a few hours a week before I turn sixteen with my parent’s approval. Mom already said it’s OK.”
I signed off, and he went to work.
With his first paycheck, his mother took him to a guitar store, where he bought a used electric guitar and a small amp. He used future wages to buy a few lessons to get started.
One day I came home and found him standing in front of the huge bathroom mirror, guitar strapped over his shoulder, blasting away. When he noticed me, he said, “I just love to watch myself playing the guitar in the mirror. I can just see myself playing in a rock band.”
My son chording with my dad, a self-taught fiddler.
And he did.
He continues to play for pleasure today and owns several electric and acoustic guitars.
Paul J. Meyer, founder of Success Motivation® International, is famous for saying,
“Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon… must inevitably come to pass!”
My son’s guitar passion is proof that Meyer is right.
INPowerment begins by believing in what you can imagine yourself doing. INLarge your expectations of living by imagining that you are doing whatever it is that you ardently desire. Enthusiastically act on it, and it must come to pass.
It’s working for me, too. I’m still seeing, believing, and succeeding.
Join me on this journey of seeing to believe, and you will be
We all have a comfort zone, and we feel safe in the center of it. But personal growth in any aspect of our life happens on the outside edge of that comfort zone–where we venture into the frontier of new things–a.k.a. the stress zone. (See prior post, Stretch Your Comfort Zone.)
Some people tend to retreat to the center of the comfort zone, far away from stress. They resist change in favor of maintaining the status quo.
Others embrace living on the edge. They seek new experiences in which they must learn to be comfortable exploring the possibilities that go along with the new territory.
I stood on a Jamaican beach watching a couple of young teenagers on one of those big-wheeled paddle tricycles. Every time the girl steered the tricycle into deeper water, her younger boy passenger would grab the handlebars and turn it back toward the beach. The girl would regain control and head back away from shore, and the boy would commandeer the vehicle and aim back toward the beach. This scene happened several times.
Frustrated, the girl shouted, “Stop turning around. Let’s go out farther.”
The boy replied, “It’s too scary. I don’t want a shark to get me.”
The girl answered, “We can’t tip this thing over, and if there were any sharks around, they wouldn’t let us go out.”
Isn’t that the way we are? We perceive danger on the edges and retreat to our comfort zone, afraid to venture out too far. Many won’t even go out on the water, but watch timidly from the beach.
I believe becoming INPowered helps us run confidently to the edge. And the more comfortable we become with living on the edge, the more INPowered we feel and act. Timid? Practice the following actions to help you move toward the edge.
- Understand your fears. What’s keeping you land-locked in the center of your comfort zone? Are your fears real–based in fact–or imagined–based on misperceptions or the false information fed to you by others?
- Press the edge in a way that minimizes your risk factors, a little at a time. Repeat often. Comfort will come.
- Find a guide. Ask a friend who has been beyond your edge to help you learn how to survive and thrive in the new territory. Let them coach or mentor you. Someday, you will be helping others follow in your path.
Check out this article on the risks that happy people are willing to take.
Learn to run to the edge. Grow your comfort zone. And you will be