This quote was reprinted in big bold letters in my neighborhood association’s newsletter, and the contrarian in me immediately took notice and started to shake her head in disagreement.
“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”
~ Brian Tracy
The voice of servant leadership speaks in Mr. Tracy’s quote, and the altruistic person within all of us wants him to be right. However there is so much evidence otherwise.
Let’s face it: We all know very successful people who are very selfish, and got to what others will view as success (for it’s a relative concept) by asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?”
Self-coaching is self-questioning
“What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) is one of my favorite coaching conversations to have with managers for two specific reasons: Proactive choice and decision ownership. I will ask them to use the WIIFM question in self-coaching, suggesting they ask themselves that question often, perhaps daily, because it helps them focus on why they are doing whatever it is they are doing at any given time.
Said another way, contrary to Mr. Tracy’s assertion, “What’s in it for me?” can get us to be more successful than we might presently be! It can help us make far better choices, and it can help us completely own the decisions we make connected to those choices. We become sure. We become value grounded.
Waking up to our moment of choice
We are all bombarded with different choices in every single moment of the day. When I ask myself “what’s in it for me?” I am trying to focus better, and be both deliberate and self-disciplined with the actions I am purposely choosing to take. No sleepwalking, automatic pilot, or going through the motions in my blind kowtow to some sacred cow which really should be put out to pasture.
Focus, deliberate action and self-discipline are all necessary to get to your Ho‘ohana, your on-purpose work.
Your Ho‘ohana is the work you do on purpose, with passion, and with deliberate intentions, consistently seeking to match up your attentions to that intention. Ho‘ohana is your value-connected work. It might be your job, it might not.
From the Archives: What’s your Calling? Has it become your Ho‘ohana?
Who’s in charge here?
I am also making absolutely sure that I am in charge of me.
That means I am not working on someone else’s plan for me. No blame, no excuses, no justifications. Only intentional my Ho‘ohana actions: Buck stops with me.
So when we ask ourselves, “What’s in it for me?” we are self-checking our intentions and our attentions.
- Does “it” make me more effective and more productive?
- Does “it” help me be more mindful and intentional about where my daily attentions should be?
- Does “it” give me more energy, or drain it away from me so I have nothing left to give?
- Is “it” in complete alignment with the values I am committing to upholding in my life? Will “it” help me be sure I walk my talk and talk my walk?
- Will “it” improve the working relationships I have with other people when I am being the authentic me? How about the emotional relationships I have with them?
When the answer to those kinds of self-coaching questions is an emphatic “Yes, it will!” that is the kind of success I want to have. Ho‘ohana deliberate success.
What about you?
Can you ask the WIIFM question and still be a servant leader?
Absolutely! You can have the good results which come about as a result of their pairing.
I have found that Ho‘ohana deliberate success very naturally translates into serving other people better: It’s a win for everyone involved because we have made it our Kuleana, our personal responsibility, to only operate at our best.
I’ll bet that your better answers to “What’s in it for me?” will do the same thing for you. There is just one caveat, a crucially important one: Always answer the question with your personal values, for that is the authentic, self-aware you. And please understand this: I won’t impose my values on you, but I will challenge you to live and work within the truth and integrity of yours.
The successful person never hides from who they are.
Self-leadership requires self-awareness, and the self-attuned person will be successful.
And yes, that is my opinion about success, however I must say I’ve yet to be proven wrong about it. I agree with Mr. Forbes:
Success follows doing what you want to do.
There is no other way to be successful.
~ Malcolm Forbes
Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?
For those who prefer them, here are the Talking Story copies of the links embedded in this posting:
- Do you ask Good Questions?
- What’s your Calling? Has it become your Ho‘ohana?
- 3 Ways Managers Create Energetic Workplaces
- Your Alaka‘i Language of Leadership?
~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i”
July 2009 ~
“What’s in it for me?” is a Self-Leadership Question