THE BLOG

Never Ever Ever Give Away Your Power

02/17/2015 11:11 am ET | Updated Apr 19, 2015

I recently heard a story about a hi-tech executive (we'll call him Ron) who had a side passion for wine making. It was a life long dream to bring new wines in the world. His friends noticed that his passion actually translated into fabulous wines. One friend (we'll call him Carl) asked him to throw a wine tasting event for his team. It was a huge success and Carl offered to pay Ron for the event and Ron declined because he said he loved doing it. He was living his purpose by being able to provide wine and make people appreciate his new art.

When Carl heard Ron's response, he asked him:

Why is it that you believe that I shouldn't pay you for the work you love? You get to pursue your purpose and get paid for it. Isn't that work should be?

This story resonates with me because work should be fun. We spend so much time preparing for that point in our lives when we go to work and today's reality is that so many people are unhappy at work. Many feel under appreciated or have been shuffled by the latest re-organization into a job that they neither chose or enjoy. Ironically, we all know that when people can bring who they are and their passion to a job, they are not only more productive but they are passionate about helping the organization achieve its purpose. These organizations simply have happier people who make better products and provide better customer service.

There is a growing desire with most people, regardless of their age or generation, to enjoy their work and not dread Monday rolling around. But fear and scarcity are alive and well and too many organization are still stuck in these 20th-century management practices instead of embracing the 21st-century practices of shared purpose and collaboration.

Why does it take a major trauma to wake us up?

Someone recently shared with me that when he was staring at death, he realized "nothing else will ever kill me." It's sad that life and death situations too often make us appreciate how precious life is and gives us the courage to pursue our purpose. What happened to that dream we had when we were seven years old and wanted to ignite the world with our passion? It was way before a "grown-up" started teaching us the rules of being polite and responsible, which led to our socialization and conformity. Do you remember that dream? What happened to it?

Being curious is a gift. We live in a world of opportunities and possibilities and it's time to stop following the mainstream. There is courage in not only being curious but also taking action and allowing ourselves to experiment outside of our matured comfort zone. The magic happens when we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable. What can you do to get comfortable with being uncomfortable?

Please don't give away your power

As individuals, we need to make sure we are creating the life we want and not giving away our personal power. I recently met two people who are being bullied by their manager at work and it breaks my heart to see this happening because of old-world hierarchies where the person at the top of the antiquated pyramid abuses their power. Listening to their stories, it is apparent to me that it is only a matter of time that they will either leave or the company will not succeed.

Imagine if they had a blank canvas an no power structure but shared purpose, where everyone in the organization not only knew their role in achieving the purpose but also the tools and management support to achieve collective success? What would they be able to create in the world and how were their days be spent? Unfortunately, because of a manager who abuses her power, they are not able to come and work. Their manager is not focused on building a business but victimizing people who report to them. In a 20th-century model, managers managed adults and in this century, managers should be solving problems and managing projects. In this specific scenario, everyone loses. And the cost to the human spirit is way too high on so many levels.

So what can we do to not give our power away?

Every single person in this universe is unique and so these are just some thoughts that only you know if they apply to your situation. Here are some of my suggestions to consider:

  • Our greatest vulnerability drive us to the door steps of opportunity. This is an opportunity to face your fear and ask yourself: "what's the worst thing that could happen if I stopped giving away my power to others?"

  • If you are in a situation where someone is using their position of power at work to force you do things you don't want to do, ask for help from your friends or community. Too often, we convince ourselves that this too shall pass, or we find ourselves in denial that this is happening. I was brought up in a world where there is truth and justice so it would be unheard of that a c-level executive or manager would abuse their position. But it happens all the time. And yet, we don't have to stay in a bad situation. We do have alternatives but we need to do the hard work and get ourselves out as the price of staying and being abused is way too high. Not all managers are good people and we need to know when it's time to walk away. Staying means we are giving our own personal power away.

  • We all need to make a living and pay our bills. But let's not forget that we are in control of our lives. We can determine how small or big are bills need to be by not giving our power away to advertisers and marketers who tell us that more is better. Spend some time thinking about what's your enough? This will help you not be a slave to a lifestyle or a habit that you are trying to feed at the expense of living your purpose.

It's time to figure out where you are giving away your power in your life and career and ask yourself if it's worth it.

Only you can choose your path

New is not always better. Some people are moving away from self interest and material gain to a paradigm of sharing and connecting, where empathy becomes more important. If your dream is to accumulate more and more stuff, more power to you. You know what's important to your well being. But if it isn't, maybe you'll shift to making a life and not just a living?

You should love what you do not do what you love! When people start making a difference in the work they do, they fall in love with it. It's addictive. The answer is in deciding what you want to make and love to do. No one can tell you how to do it. There is no dummy's guide. Now that is something worth thinking about. Are you willing to do what other people won't?