Today I met with an associate to discuss some business possibilities, but the conversation I took with me was the one we had regarding his Buddhism practice. As I was in business coach mode, I was quite observant of his state of being. He had an energy about him that was peaceful and delightfully contagious. It provided me a refreshingly calm drive to my next appointment at a nearby Starbucks.
Sitting here at my local coffee shop early on a Sunday morning, I overhear the baristas swap stories of unreliable past coworkers. The over-riding theme centers on the complaint that former folk “passed the buck” of accountability. When asked an inconvenient question by a customer, their responses had been “not in my section,” or “I’m on break,” or even “… what should I do about it?”
I’ve been coaching and consulting professionals for over a decade. It’s a joy and a responsibility I greet with reverence and gratitude. What is said in these conversations is not scripted, but rather it is based on years of training, listening and commitment. People trust me with what I say and how I listen, and I take that very seriously. It is also great training for other important conversations, like the ones I have with my son, Gabriel.
Gabriel is 6 years old and loves to ask questions. A couple of recent favorites are, “Dad, what is a soul?” … and, “Which planet did God make first?”
I do my best to be earnest and thoughtful in my responses, but I must admit … I’m often caught pleasantly off-guard.
To add to the challenge is his strong will for certainty. Just like my clients, maybe’s and theoretical possibilities are not what he’s looking for. He wants answers! The most fun and most daunting part is what he hears from me will shape so much of his belief system. You parents out there have surely found yourself in these special moments.
In The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book), Don Miguel Ruiz begins with “Be Impeccable with your Word” as the first agreement. He reminds us of the power and the sanctity of what we say. Our responsibility is not only for the other people we are talking to, but extends out to other worlds as well. Quantum physics tells us there is energy substance that helps manifest what’s around us. Everything is part of this energy, and our words are a part of that everything-ness. Therefore, our words really have a creative essence!
Perhaps most importantly is the first person who is hearing what we say. Ourselves. We know ourselves to be who we tell ourselves we are. This may be something we voice out loud or it may be unspoken and internalized.
It could be that this is where our word should be most impeccable. Just like it does with my son and with my clients, what I say shapes my own beliefs too and my own values and my own actions. It shapes who I am for myself.
What you say shapes who you are too.
At the level of identity our word creates literally who we are, even physically! Have you ever willed yourself to be well? … or sick?
What have you said about yourself lately?
Were you kind and forgiving? Or were you critical?
And what about sarcasm?
The whole idea of personal responsibility is gaining traction these days in the mainstream. It’s no longer just a self-improvement slogan. But where does it begin?
Maybe it begins with our word, silent or spoken. What are the words you speak everyday? Is it consistent with the world you want?
If you want to change your life and your world, try changing what you say.
Written by Brett Morris
1) I have yet to meet a consultant who started their career as one. What other paths did you go down before landing at Momentum?
I was a landscaper for 15 plus years and short stints in other fields, including finance manager at an international corporation and an English teacher in Istanbul.
2) Momentum is all about transparency, so let’s apply that here. You recently moved away from Austin to Iowa. What took you there? Are you still accepting Austin clients?
Primarily my family and I moved to Iowa to take over my wife’s family’s business and to be closer to my in-laws. And the great thing about being a coach and consultant with Momentum, is there are no physical boundaries. Most of our work is done via teleconference and coaching our clients through the day-to-day happenings in their businesses. Momentum has clients all over the world – North America, Africa, Europe — so the distance between Austin and Iowa doesn’t seem that far. I also fly to Texas at least every couple of months. I am still very much a part of Momentum Consulting and always open to more Austin clients.
3) So, Texas boy, how well did you survive your first midwest winter?
Oh, it was fine. And by “fine” I mean it was cold and snowy all the time. A month in Austin helped me survive. Of course now that it’s over, it all seems very tolerable. It definitely heightens my appreciation of the other seasons.
4) You have a toddler at home. How has parenthood changed the way you consult?
I used to use a lot of sports analogies, now I use a lot of parent analogies. In coaching sessions with my clients, now we talk about how they hold their commitments in all aspects of their lives – not just at work.
5) What do you miss most about Austin?
It’s not what I “miss” but what I notice that I took for granted. Being born and raised in a great place like Austin I never noticed the value of community until it was gone. Like a fish wouldn’t notice the value of water until it was on dry land. Creating a new community from scratch has been a worthy challenge though.
6) What have you learned about human nature in your work as a consultant and coach?
The universal unwillingness to do what we know is good for us. Over and over and over and over… And on the brighter side … when a client takes an opportunity to demonstrate courage beyond what I thought they would actually do, I get inspired to follow their lead in my own life.
It has often been said “no good deed goes unpunished”. Many of us don’t have to look too far in our history to find evidence why this is a true statement. How many times have you gone out on the skinny branches to help someone in need only to get no sufficient gratitude or payback? Wouldn’t it be great if they just did the right thing and recognized how generous you are? It’s much easier to do “unto your neighbor …“ if there is a solid guarantee they will reciprocate.
At this point I will pose the suggestion that a 50-50 mentality does NOT add up to 100%. In fact it is much closer to zero.
50-50 mentality makes me think of one of my favorite metaphors: “It’s not leaking on my side of the boat, only yours.”
If I venture to take accountability for my half I am not adding to yours. In reality what I’m doing is apologizing with the condition you do the same. So this means I get to hold on to the belief that you were wrong, because you apologized. Furthermore I get to carry this with me for future use should I need evidence to again prove your wrongness. Isn’t that what we do?
When we take full accountability for the situation we do it 100%. We do it unconditionally and without expectations from the other party.
Does this completely forgive the other person? Yes.
Does it sometimes feel like you will choke on your pride as it goes down? Yes.
Does this mean you are condoning bad behavior? No.
Look … we’ve spent a lifetime surviving and attempting to get people to do things our way. Taking full accountability is relieving yourself of this burden. This is good news!
Blaming puts me in jail. Taking accountability gives me the key to unlock the cell door and step into freedom and power.
Freedom and power is the whole point really. Otherwise if I’m shirking responsibility, it’s kind of like I’m affirming an inability to deal with the situation. By taking accountability I’m sending a message to myself: I made this, and I can deal with this!
Try it out and notice the difference in power. It is this power that gets us what we want.
Sound good so far? Sound powerful and free?