By Tony Bridwell (@BridwellTony), Author and Chief People Officer at Ryan LLC, and Marcus Nicolls, Senior Partner at Partners In Leadership.
This year, as is often the case, most of the biggest movies have been of the superhero variety (Wonder Woman, anyone?). Generally, these movies go a little something like this: a community is on the brink of disaster, a superhero is called in to save the day, and peace and goodness are restored to the world. No matter how many times we've seen this plot play out, it seems we still can't get enough of it.
What is it about superheroes that we love so much? Is it their ability to overcome tremendous obstacles? Their superhuman strength?
We recently asked a small group of employees what superpower they found most compelling. Among their responses: the ability to fly, x-ray vision, and time travel. We then asked that same group if they thought the ability to control one's own destiny was a superpower--and many of them responded "yes."
The truth is, each of us already possesses the power to do great things. With a little practice, we can all unleash the superhero within.
It Starts with Accountability
Accountability is about the personal choices we make to overcome the obstacles in our way. Every time we face a trying situation, we also face a choice: will we be a victim of circumstance or emerge victorious?
The Oz Principle posits that when you assume full accountability for your thoughts, feelings, and actions, you gain control of your own destiny. In this way, we can all channel the superheroes whom we love and admire. The question is, how can we activate that superpower in our day-to-day professional lives?
The first step is simply recognizing that a problem exists--and then taking ownership of it. The key here is control: when we obsess over what's not in our power to change, we slip into victim mode. Instead, we must focus exclusively on factors over which we have some degree of control.
Accountability in Action
We recently heard a great story that exemplifies putting The Oz Principle into practice. As an adolescent, a friend of ours was consistently told he wasn't smart enough to make much out of his life, and unsurprisingly, his test scores reinforced that belief. For every test he took in school, he would score in the bottom 25%, regardless of the subject. He hated school, felt like a failure and struggled with self-esteem.
As he got a little older, he decided to pursue the one thing he really loved and excelled at--painting. He shared this aspiration with his mom, who supported his vision, but challenged him to consider a path that combined painting with a practical skill more certain to yield a steady income, like graphic art.
The young man reluctantly agreed to give graphic art a try. The next thing you know, he had mastered Adobe Photoshop. While he'd never considered himself smart enough to succeed in such a rigorous field, here he was, excelling in a world that had seemed off limits just a short time earlier.
The next thing you know, someone asked if he had ever considered photography. Again, his old victim mentality kicked in. He was sure he wasn't talented enough to excel in photography. But this time, he focused on what was in his power--his love of art--and gave it a try. The first time he looked through a camera lens, he literally exclaimed, "I see art!"
Today, this man is recognized as one of the most influential photographers of our time. His art is world-renowned. All this from a kid who was constantly told he wasn't good enough. What made the difference?
This young man simply needed to unleash his inner superhero. By focusing on what was within his control, he took a risk and pursued what he loved. While perhaps not the makings of a blockbuster movie, this is a true story of how accountability can lead to great success--and that's something we can all learn from.