by Mary Koppenheffer
Local speaker and author, Meridith Elliott Powell, recently released her fourth book entitled “Own It: Redefining Responsibility.”
As a member of the National Speakers Association, Powell has the opportunity to hear the concerns of business leaders and employees around the country. Her latest book reflects the concerns from both sides and offers solutions. “I’ve heard corporate leaders say they can’t find skilled employees who want to work hard, and I’ve heard employees and job seekers say they can’t find meaningful work.” Her book is aimed at finding the common ground where businesses can grow and individuals can thrive.
Powell is on a mission to share a message she said is vital to a growing economy. “Stop waiting.” “I’ve met employers who survived the down economy and are so afraid to make a mistake they are paralyzed,” she said. “And I talk to the new generation of job seekers who are waiting for an opportunity to come to them,” Powell said in an era of ‘helicopter parents’ we have built a culture that does not allow a person to fail. “What we’ve forgotten is that taking responsibility is the ultimate pass to freedom.”
Her argument is that when individuals focus on what they cannot control, they lose focus. That is true for both employers and employees. While she admits that the business climate is not the same as it was prior to 2008, if businesses directed more energy toward what it takes to engage employees, and employees took more personal responsibility for their own success, the results could be “electrifying.”
An example of that is Horne, LLP, a CPA firm she worked with in Mississippi with offices around the country. With a lot of competition in the industry, Horne’s Executive Partner, Joey Havens, focused the business on talent, letting the firm’s level of talent set them apart. That contributed to the firm hiring according to the values of the business and creating a culture that engaged the employees.
Before she started her most recent book, Powell had the opportunity to meet four men who had achieved a very high level of professional success despite coming from backgrounds that offered them no connections nor privileges. “I wanted to know how they succeeded, how they developed the confidence to get where they are today totally on their own.” She shares parts of their stories through the book.
Powell moved to Asheville from western Pennsylvania in the early 1990s. “I wanted a place that had the same hometown feel, but better weather.” She came with no job and eventually landed with First Citizens Bank where she moved up the ladder.
Earlier in her career, she experienced herself a period of frustration and waiting for someone else to take action on her behalf. “I learned what it meant to ask for what you want.” At one point she was passed over for a promotion she felt she deserved. Although working hard and making a contribution, Powell felt like she had no voice. “I was angry and blaming others for not getting what I wanted.” When she brought the situation to her employer, she found out he was surprised that she felt overlooked, and that conversation was the catalyst for change in her career.
Powell’s other books include ‘Winning in the Trust & Value Economy,” which was nominated for three international book awards, and was named a finalist for the USA Best Business Book Awards. She also wrote ’42 Rules to Turn Prospects into Customers,’ and ‘Mastering the Art of Success.’
Powell is the host of the ‘Secrets to Success’ Podcast on the Ambitious Entrepreneur podcast network and is a columnist for several publications. Her webinar series ‘The Client Connection’ is heard monthly through the BrightTalk Channel and hosts leading experts in the field of business relationships and client service.