Why do we settle for less and then make excuses for everyone? Perhaps it is a way to avoid confrontation, or it could be that we simply don't have time, or choose not to deal with poor customer service and the boss who promised a raise that never quite made its way to our paycheck. Those are some of the possibilities, but there is another option- we settle, or make excuses, for others because we have given away our power to the other person involved in the equation. This stuff makes me just a little nutty, so I thought I'd share a couple of stories with you and the offer my thoughts on how we can take back, or own our power- if you choose.
Both of these stories involve members of my family, but in the interest of protecting their identity, I am using fake "nicknames"- even though I am very tempted to expose them, but I think they are already suffering enough. Recently, I was having a conversation with a family member who lives on the West Coast, and she was telling me how one of the bedrooms in her condo had suffered water damage a few weeks ago. (You may recall that certain states out West, California for example- hint, hint, received more rain than normal this year).
This water damage was making for some unhealthy breathing conditions in their home (can you say mold spores?), and the person who inhabited the once flooded bedroom had effectively moved out and was staying with friends until the damage to the room was repaired. Now, and this is the good part, I say to my family member on the West Coast, why have the necessary repairs not taken place yet? And she calmly explains to me that she has been back and forth with the condo association and the contractor, blah, blah, blah and "you just don't understand. These people out here are very laid back. They are not in a big hurry to do anything,
and if you get upset with them, they are hurt by it and ask you why you are yelling at them". "Let them ask!" I yell. My blood pressure has gone up significantly while on the phone with this family member and I just cannot believe what I am hearing about the complete lack of action to this flooding problem. (I am also worried about the fact that West Coast, and friends, are living in a condo suffering from severe allergy-type ailments, caused by the mold spores, which was caused by the dampness emanating from the flooded bedroom, etc.). I make several recommendations on how to resolve this issue, for the interim- or longer, should these laid back people choose to never show up to make the repairs, and then I hang up and head for the shower, shaking my head along the way.
Like most times in my life, once I am in the shower with no distractions other than which shampoo to use, I begin to process things. This time I am focused on the phone conversation I've just had when suddenly I have an epiphany; you know, that "ah ha" moment that makes everything crystallize in front of you. So, while I am having this moment of clarity, I recall another conversation I had just two-days prior, with another family member, about his work situation. This person works for a relative of his and this person is not much of a go-getter, so work is slow and this puts my family member in a stressful financial situation. I asked the family member sitting at my kitchen table a few perfunctory questions as a means in which to offer alternatives and perhaps a few suggestions, but each question or recommendation was met with a combination of, "yep, tried that" and then a big sigh of resignation, the "making excuses and settling" type of sigh. I got up from the table feeling really dragged down by what this person was going through- call it the pain of empathy. Now these two discussions have converged in my mind and I begin mentally blurting out questions like, "why are they settling?", and "why are they making excuses for these other people?" The answer is this; they are doing this because they have chosen to take a very passive role in these aspects of their lives. Instead of exerting their own personal power, and working to turn these situations around, they have abdicated their personal power and will to the very people for whom they are making excuses.
Eureka! Is this not exactly what those people want? They are not expected to be accountable and as such, they are not going
to act responsibly, and "West Coast" and "Kitchen Table" are most certainly not going to hold them accountable because they have already given their power away in both of these situations.
And guess what? No one wins in either of these scenarios, or a million others like it that play out every day. I am fired up on behalf of "West Coast" and "Kitchen Table" and now that I've had my brilliant epiphany, I am going to have some follow-up dialogue with them and coach them to take charge, take back their power and get the mold out- no pun intended, and the money coming in. Now that I have resolved to do that, I'd like to give you just a little bit of background about what I consider personal power.
Allow me this quick tangent and I think you will see the connection. When I started my own business, I solicited a group made-up of colleagues, friends, and family to help me come up with a name for the business. I held a contest, and chose the "winner" from the dozens of ideas that were submitted. POWER Image was the name I chose, and although the acronym, POWER, came with some ideas about what it should mean, I changed them to reflect the philosophy and objective I have for those that I coach, or who attend my seminars. I thought I'd share The Story Behind the POWER, to further explain its importance:
First you must understand your Purpose in order to create a presence, and then you can begin to Own Your Power and Control Your Destiny. Move on to execute the WOW! factor; WOW your clients, your colleagues, your boss, your team, and whoever is important in your life. At all times in this journey, demonstrate Empathy for others, and finally, be sure to take time to Recognize and reward others.
Now, there is a caveat here in that you may have to recognize someone for negative things, but if you have established purpose in your life and you do own your power, the less likely that the negative may happen to you, or that you find yourself "settling". By the same token, if more people learned to practice this approach, I may not have a
reason for writing this?? The bottom line is that no one has total control over your life, your career, or your experiences as a consumer, unless you allow it to happen. This could be a subconscious event where you are not even aware that this has occurred. You are the only one who can make a choice as to whether you will be the victim OR take control over the aspects of your life you deem most important. I am not saying you should debate with everyone about every little thing- no one has the time for that. What I am saying is stand up for what is important to you. Accept that there are moments in life where some things will not change and that you will need to be the one to make change happen, perhaps by finding another job, or a new cable service or credit card provider. Do what you have to do and move on. Just don't let it be done to you or you run the risk of settling for less than you deserve and giving away your power.
Lisa D'Aniello has over 20 years of leadership experience in the retail, restaurant and financial services industries. Most recently, Lisa was an officer a Boston-based mutual fund company. During her nine years with the firm, Lisa successfully supervised or personally developed and implemented many programs aimed at professional development for staff and management. Lisa coached her teams to the core concepts and practices of these programs which covered topics such as presentation skills, building effective client partnerships, communication skills, leadership, dressing for success, and conflict resolution.