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What Happens When You Need To Fire Yourself?

Updated: May 28

In 2010, at a “Survivor” counseling weekend in Arizona, Willy fires himself as his own higher power.

For Willy, it is the proverbial best of times, and worst of times. An immigrant from Columbia, he plays golf on scholarship and receives his college education. He builds his own company, a comprehensive engineering firm, with eight offices throughout the Carolinas. From the outside looking in, Willy is successful. But on the inside, things are different.

With his success, something happens to Willy. The more success he experiences, the more his ego swells. Willy is driven by performance, persistence and power. This drive ruins his first marriage and now threatens to ruin his second one.

At his “Survivor” weekend, the facilitator says, “you have an incredible need for control,” and blindfolds him for the rest of the day to build trust with the four other people in his small group. The facilitator won’t let it go, “you are a driven man and you live as your own ‘higher power.’”

On a run into the desert, Willy ends up sobbing, on his knees. It is then that he does something dramatic. Willy fires himself as his own higher power.

Today Willy is happily married, a brilliant father, the chair of a $2B healthcare system, published author, and Hollywood is planning a movie based on his life.

After firing himself as his own higher power, he develops what he calls “thread values,” a listing of the core values successful organizations weave through themselves and instill in every member.

Today, he mentors his own team of hundreds in what he calls six “thread values.” He also serves as an accountability partner with many corporate CEOs.

The first three thread values revolve around how we treat each other: trust, humility, and respect.

The other three revolve around how we go about our work: excellence, accountability, and discipline.

“The problem,” Willy says, “is that we are all fighting battles, our own monsters.” This leads to a growing distrust of others and a greater reliance on self. “The greater the success, the greater the tendency for a swelling ego.”

Willy teaches that, at some point, you must fire yourself as your sole higher power and build trust among a team. Stephen Covey says that this kind of trust in others is “the one thing that changes everything.”

Effective leaders that make a profit, bless their community and advance their purpose build trust among a team so they can multiply and carry on their impact.

Covey says that leaders who understand this when they build their teams enjoy a “trust dividend,” a measurable acceleration in performance and speed while cost comes down. He also says that it is “the key leadership competency of the new global economy.”

To continue his profit with a purpose, Willy has selected his successor as COO, steeping her in his thread values. Together, they are implementing an entrepreneurial operating system to instill the thread values throughout his company. He is enjoying success with the significance of knowing that his hard work will carry on for generations.

Willy is leaving a legacy.

It is success without significance that drives successful entrepreneurs to become maniacal dictators with outward success and inward demons. The greater their success, the greater is this tendency.

Success with significance is the goal. This can only come when you shift your behavior to increase trust in all your relationships. It begins within each of us personally and continues into our relationships.

Willy fired himself as his own higher power. Should you?

Harry T. Jones

P.S. Willy Stewart’s book “Fire Yourself” is a great read. I highly recommend it!.

P.S.S. Happy New Year! Don’t miss January’s theme: Crossroads!

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