Forged In Fire: The Essential Role Of Accountability In Building Cultures Of Success With Rhett Power

Graphics - Episode Art - VCP 254 Rhett Power - Banner

In the realm of personal and professional development, few principles hold as much weight as accountability. It serves as the cornerstone upon which individuals and organizations build success. In this episode, host Tony Martignetti sits down with Rhett Power, the CEO and founder of Accountability Inc., for a reflective conversation on the pivotal moments that have shaped his life. Tune in as Rhett's inspiring narrative underscores the transformative potential of building success through accountability.


Listen to the podcast here

Forged In Fire: The Essential Role Of Accountability In Building Cultures Of Success With Rhett Power


It's truly an honor to welcome my friend, Rhett Power. He is the CEO and Founder of Accountability Incorporated, an organization that embodies his vision to empower founders and executives to embrace courage, overcome fear, maintain focus, and construct accountable high-performance organizations. He's a Forbes Calmness bestselling author and is acknowledged globally as a top executive coach by the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches Program. He is considered the number one thought leader on entrepreneurship by Thinkers 360 and a top 10 startup and management thought leader by Global Gurus. Additionally, he co-hosts bestsellers TV on Apple TV. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina, part-time. He's also in Washington DC and he's lived in thirteen countries. Did I hear 79 countries you visited? Holy crap. He has two boys both in their college years. He's soon to be an empty nester. I am truly honored to welcome you to the show.

It warms my heart to be here, and thank you so much. I love being at the campfire.

There's something magical about having these conversations in the show where we think about these stories that have made us who we are and we get to explore deeper than we normally do. This is not a surface-level conversation, for sure. We're going to have fun. One of the things that I'm looking forward to is getting to know and sharing you with the people who are on the show because I feel like there are many parts of who you are that are truly amazing. That's going to be fun.

Reflecting On Pivotal Moments

As we do on the show, we explore people's journeys through what's called Flashpoints, points in our journey that have ignited our gifts in the world. I'm going to turn it over to you in a few moments. I'd love to have you share some of the moments along the way that have revealed who you are. You can start from wherever you'd like and share what you're called to share. We'll pause along the way and see what's showing up.

I'm 54 now. There've been many moments that were critical and many junctures where a turn here or turn there, or a decision here, a decision there would've, life would've been different. I can think of several. One of the things I do when I speak to groups sometimes, and the title of the talk is I've Defined My Life By Quitting. I have because the things that I've quit have given me the freedom to take on new challenges. I don't look at quitting as bad sometimes. Sometimes quitting is a good thing. Let me define that for you. When I was 29, I quit a great job with Clear Channel Communications. I was on a real, good career path.

Sometimes, quitting is a good thing. The things that I've quit have given me the freedom to take on new challenges.

I already had senior management and had a good trajectory there, but there was some nagging feeling. I don't think I know what it knew what it was at the time, but there was something that said, “This isn't your life. You need to rethink this.” I went into the Peace Corps. I lived in a university town. I was at the university for something. I saw this poster on the wall. When I was an undergrad, ten years before, I thought about going into the Peace Corps then the sign grabbed me. I went to this recruiting meeting. Lo and behold, six months later, I was in Uzbekistan. It was a peaceful volunteer, and that was a huge transitional or gut-check moment where I took three months of Russian.

I was speaking another language. By that time, I was teaching classes. This place was foreign to me. I'd heard of the Silk Road. This was in the former Soviet Union. I'd heard of it and read about it, but I'd read The Great Game in high school because my English teacher was fascinated by it. I didn't know the religion. I didn't know the history that well. That was a huge transitional moment because that led to USAID. It led to working in Afghanistan after 9/11. It led to a whole other life of not only service but working for good, doing good work, and the next transitional phase. There was a huge area in time of growth there for me personally and professionally because I got a ton of responsibility at a young age because of where I was and because I was willing to go places other people weren't.

That was huge growth for me. I got to see a lot of the world, war, poverty, see and live in. I lived with a family when I was in the Peace Corps. Instead of going out on my own and living in an apartment, I decided to stay with me and land where I was placed. I got to experience their culture, have dinner with them every night and learn about their lives. The next big transitional moment was in 2004, realizing that there was that gut feeling again. It was nagging me and saying, “It's time.” What that feeling was telling me was, “It's time to do something that you create, and that you build.” A friend of mine and I got caught with a work colleague. I had been talking about it for years over pizza and beer on Friday nights in this little café.

We finally decided in 2004 that it was time for us to act on it or stop talking about it. It’s time to go out, build our legacy and build our business. We came back and we bought a small one-product toy company in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My lawyer said, “If you buy that business, I will do this for you.” This is a guy I've known for twenty years. He said, “This is terrible. Do not buy this. I have to show it to you, but please do not buy this.” That's what we bought. That's the one that we were interested in. It's the one that lit us up. We were able to turn that business into a global business working in 35 countries and turn that into a good business selling to Toys R Us, Animal Planet, Walmart and Target, and locally creating products of the year in that lineup.

That was an incredible ten years. In 2014, we got that same feeling again. We had an opportunity to sell it and it was a no-brainer. It was time. We sold and we had some other companies in the middle of that. We had that exit. It was clean. I remember about six months or so after I sold it, I had that feeling again, it was time to do something else. I was on a panel at Stanford at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and ran into Mark Thompson. We started talking about coaching. I spent a weekend with him and Venita at his house in California. We started talking about coaching. That planted the seed about what my next thing was going to be. That's where we are. I’m coaching. I've got Accountability Inc.

Our focus is on accountable cultures and building accountable organizations. I believe that's the X Factor for success. There were a couple of other personal big moments, having kids and a huge conditional moment. My youngest was born with a condition called CDH. It was a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. He wasn't supposed to live. The doctor told me that night that he was born and that I should plan for his funeral. He defied the odds and lived. They put him on a very new technology at the time, which was called ECMO, which is well known now, but at the time was a brand new technology. He was lucky to be born where he was born because they had one of the machines and the staff to run it. He survived the surgeries. Ten months later he got RSV, which he was taking medication against, and he was already lung-compromised.

He almost died there. We had a me backing from El Salvador with a bowel ion that they couldn't fix in El Salvador. He almost died there. He is supposed to be here. We were looking at him, his courage and face. I remember the doctor at the hospital telling me, “ Don't ever limit him. Don't ever tell him he can't do something because of what he's got.” There are many moments in life like that, many business moments and many big decisions that for me have shown me what I'm made of and shown me what I can.

They show you your limitations too, but those experiences and moments and I don't say courageous enough, but I think capable of listening to what your gut, heart and all that mix of stuff, your brain and everything else that's saying, “Pay attention,” whatever that is, learning to listen to it because it's usually pretty good at giving you the signs of what's going on and what you need to be paying attention to. I don't know why I've learned to pay attention to it, but I did. It steered me well. It's given me the confidence that maybe is a good word, to follow that intuition, follow that or whatever that is.

First of all, there are many things to react to here because a lot of the things you shared are powerful. One of the first things I was going to ask, and you already went there, is this gut that you've been following as you go along has been driving you, but it's been getting refined over time. It's been built through experiences and continues to shape your life. It's not the same gut instinct that you had when you were young. It is now a little bit stronger, and a little more road-tested. I was going to ask you, what do you refer to it as? You said intuition is what you want to say it is. It's an intuition, but it's a road-tested intuition.

Maybe we need to name it. I haven't named it. Maybe that's what we had to do, we had to brand it and put a name to it. I call it this whole mess of stuff. It's your brain, heart, gut, all acting and giving you the signs and giving you the messages if we've learned to listen to them. Something that popped in my head when you said was trust, I've learned to trust it. I've come to trust it.

The Virtual Campfire | Rhett Power | Building Success Through Accountability

That's a great way to look at it. One of the things that I also reflect on as I hear your story is this sense that none of it felt like you are coming from a failure. It felt like it was this sense of, “This has been good and now I'm ready for the next thing that is my time.” Maybe you thought differently at the time, but there is a sense of like, “For me to grow into the person I'm meant to be, I need to shift into this next chapter and be open to embracing whatever my gut is telling me to do.” That all is strengthening your resolve, especially when it comes to dealing with things like seeing your son going through this challenging situation. You need to be strong for that. In order for you to be strong, you have to have been through all the things that the world has thrown at you already.

The business wasn't always great either. In the first couple of years, we were scammy and awful. I can't put enough awful on top of how bad it was the first couple of years because. We could go down that road too. There were a lot of growth moments there thinking, “I screwed this whole thing up. This gut thing is a joke.” I don't have any.

You say that the gut drove you there or that inner knowing is saying like, “Go here.” Those challenges were also things that you needed to go through the trial, the crucible moments that have now defined who you are and made you into someone who can now be a guide for others and help them through their challenging moments. It's great to look back and say, “I survived,” but also knowing that it's never easy in the process. I harken to this that Whitney Johnson always says, “Growth is a default setting,” but that doesn't make it easy. Growth is not easy.

I remember a couple of things about the business. I remember the first day we got in and literally looking at the keys in my hand for this warehouse that we've now got. The things that bothered me and my business partner at the time when we were brand new and taking over this business and the things that happened five years later, I didn't lose sleep over them five years later. The things that would've made me lose weeks of sleep early on, you can swear out, you can fix and talk to someone and get a resolution. You can solve that problem. There is this amazing growth that happens when you're doing something that's pushing you beyond your normal limits and testing you. You do those crucible moments. Those crucible moments give you that confidence that you can solve and fix and solve any problem. It changes you.

Amazing growth happens when you're doing something that's pushing you beyond your normal limits. Those tests as crucible moments give you that confidence to fix and solve any problem.

I wrote an article about the idea that sometimes we stay in our comfort zones because it's comfortable there. The reality is if we want to test our ability to live a life that is meaningful, we have to get out there, try different things, see what we're made of and know that it's not always going to work out. That's why getting out there in the unknown is part of the game. It's part of our ability to see what we are capable of.

I was reading something and it's along the same lines. It was about raising kids. It was fascinating to me because the whole premise of this article was don't solve your kids' problems. Let them solve their problem. You can talk to them about them, but don't intervene in your kids' problems. Let them solve so that they develop that muscle, and their premise was, it's going to make them much better adults. It's going to make them much better at navigating the world that they're going to face because it's our natural reaction to go in and save the day or try to help, but it's like, “Let them solve. Don't jump in. Don't helicopter parent in.” I thought it was interesting because it is. In business when I had to solve the problem, I got better at solving the problem. I got used to solving the problems and it wasn't a big deal. It didn't overwhelm me.

Accountability In Building Successful Organizations

There are many directions I want to take you with us because there's part of me that wants to explore, name your company Accountability, I'd like to know what accountability looks like for you. Maybe we'll go there first, but I have some other juicy questions for you.

Let me back up. I'll start with my mission. It is about helping entrepreneurs and startup founders achieve business success. I believe accountability is the X factor here. The reason is in my life, what I mean by accountability is it's a value. It means not only do you take responsibility and you own it, but it's about creating an accountable culture of work. Everybody understands and they have clarity about what their jobs are, what they're supposed to deliver, and what's expected of them. It's this super focus on giving people an understanding of what they're supposed to be doing, what they're supposed to deliver, what their role in the whole organization is, and how it ties back to the goals of the organization.

I believe if everybody has understanding and they understand their role, then they're going to be more engaged, they more likely have what Ryan Berman has, I love this phrase, calls a, “Watch your back,” culture as opposed to a, “Got your back culture.” I love that term. I look at championship teams. What makes up a championship team? Everybody is pulling in the same way. Everybody's focused on the same goal. The individual is a high performer, they raise everybody else's performance. There are some interesting dynamics when you get into that and what makes a team work well. I'm fascinated by that. That's my mission. I think that I want to see teams perform at that level. I want to see people pulling from each other, helping each other understand what the goals are and understand what their goals are in that organization.

When we did that in our company, when we had a culture like that, when we were intentional about our culture like that, we were successful. That's why we were able to grow fast. That's why we were able to build such a global company in ten years. Our intention was to build that kind of company. I've worked in some terrible jobs. I look back at those terrible jobs. The management didn't care. They weren't clear to me. I wasn't clear on what my real goals were and what I was supposed to deliver there. I always hated when I heard people say, “They have decided that we're going to be doing this,” or the we versus them culture.

That's why this has become a mission for me because I want teams to work in unison. I want teams and leaders to be transparent and focused on giving your teams everything to succeed. I don't know if that answered the question, but accountability to me goes further than just being responsible. We often confuse responsibility with accountability. Accountable cultures are transparent. They're focused. They're on the same page, and they're working towards the same.

To riff a little bit more on that because I think this will align with you let's say leadership make a decision that things are going to change in a certain direction, in an accountable organization, the people who are responsible for delivering that message to the frontline are owning the decision, they're accountable to that and they're aligned with what the leadership says because they have that sense of connection to what that message is. It's not like they versus us. It's more of like, “Here's how we're going to do this and we believe in this now because we're not just taking the message and running with it. We bought into it as well and we believe it's the right path,” because if we didn't, then we wouldn't be telling you to do it. There are two other words that come to mind behind accountability, are clarity and trust, I think when you're clear, as you describe this sense of being clear about the roles, being clear about what you're doing, that leads to accountability.

I think accountability goes completely with values because I think a company living in its values is accountable. If management and the leadership are acting within their stated values, that's accountability. That leads to an accountable culture. It's when our stated values and leadership are out of sync with the values that are stated that you don't have that trust. That trust is built when leadership acts within those stated values of the organization and people see that. Big and tough decisions are made based on the values. That's where you get broken cultures and organizations that are dysfunctional. All of that's out of sync.

The Virtual Campfire | Rhett Power | Building Success Through Accountability

I want to take this to the next level now and say you do a lot of work around the world. You've seen a lot of different types of leaders out there. What are some of the topics that come up in the conversations you've had, whether it be speaking or through all your interactions, what are some of the common things, the challenges that you see over and over again? Maybe it's the same ones we've already talked about.

All of this is easy to say. Building a great culture is tough. Building an organization with the right people, getting the right players on the field and creating the right game plan are tough because people make things complicated. We're good at making things complicated. Finding the right people in an organization, getting the right people in the right positions, getting the right culture building and being intentional about that, being consistent is all tough. Business is tough. None of it is easy. The reason businesses fail when you look at all the numbers, the numbers alarm me, but for Fortune 500 companies now, you still stay on the list. Many years now, they last eleven. Fifty million people quit their jobs a couple of years ago. Ninety percent of small businesses fail. You could go on and on about engagement surveys and all the alarming numbers. Business is tough. Getting this right isn't easy.

It's like looking for a unicorn. People talk about unicorns in business. All businesses are unicorns in their own way.

It takes constant effort. This is one thing that we talk about a lot. I don't know that this is true, but anecdotally, you talk to leaders and there's a lot more stress around saying and doing the right thing, getting in trouble by saying something that's not accepted and getting blown out for that. Making a mistake like that now is all in public, it's all recorded and this speaking is easy to do. When you get bombarded with stuff every day, it's easy to make a misstep and get distracted by that thing. You hear a lot in our conversations around that.

There's also worry about this work. The workforce is different now and the expectations are different. It's harder and harder to get people, particularly in lower-end jobs, people wanting to do the jobs that are required now. Managing people is harder. I think our political divide doesn't help either because we have lost the art of talking to people. If somebody has a different opinion, then it means that they're bad. You talk to HR leaders and, and they'll tell you right now, it's hard in that space to people not even wanting to sit next to somebody else that believes something different than they do. It is tougher. That's on the mind.

I'm glad you shared that because it's prevalent, especially with a lot of things going on with the wars and the conflicts that are happening in the world and not knowing where everyone's coming from. Until we open the aperture and truly understand people's situations, we don't know where they stand. Two things that come to mind are that one of them is like, we need to be able to give ourselves some time to process our own feelings and emotions about things, especially for leaders of companies because when you think about it, we're trying to make quick decisions. We can't make quick decisions. We need to slow it down and allow ourselves to say, “How do I want to respond in a situation where I'm confronted with a very charged situation? I need to be able to make an intentional choice in the moment, or a decision and message.” The other part of this is to also be open-minded and embrace things that we don't understand and things we don't necessarily agree with and still hold. It's a paradoxical feeling.

To me, it's a real challenge. You're forced to make a statement on these things. You're forced to come down on a side. It's tough.

I want to take us back into your story. Are there any other flashpoints that you'd like to share? Alternatively, I'll give you another out here, are there any stories in your travels that you want to share that put you on the edge that you want to share?

There are a lot of edgy stories there, but I think the flashpoints are interesting because they do stand out. I could tell you war stories from Afghanistan and some of the other places in the world. The flashpoints are interesting. Selling the business and being as excited about selling it as I was about buying it because it opened up a new opportunity for growth and a new opportunity to do something exciting. I learned about myself in that process and that's why I focus on working with entrepreneurs and startups. I like the building phase. I realize this about myself. I didn't like this so much making sure John showed up for work and that we had things where the wheels were running, the wheels were turning and things were running smoothly.

That was less interesting to me than building the culture, products and the organization. That’s why I ended up focusing on startups and entrepreneur perspectives. I like that phase, the building phase and the growth phase. That's probably my ADHD talking. I learned in that flashpoint, in selling the business, a lesson about myself that I think is valuable. It helps me now focus on the types of people that I can help the most because in coaching you can do all kinds of things. You can focus on a lot of different things I did for a couple of years. As I grew and I learned about coaching and how I can help people, though, that flashpoint came back to me as a real sign of where I should put my focus.

Key Moments Of Growth

In reflecting on those businesses that we had in those ten years that accountability and building, reflecting on the culture that we built is what led us to success and to where we were. That's why focusing on this was important. The other flash points all led to tremendous growth times in my life. I think overall, it led to my life philosophy. I don't have a game plan for my life. Some people say, “Don't you have these goals? Don't you have these written down?” I have some things I want to accomplish. You and I have probably been in these connected groups with MG 100. I like those because I get to talk about some of the things I want to accomplish in life, but I don't have a plan.

What the last many years have taught me is don't get so rigid. I had my first business with that toy company. We created a 639-page business plan. No joke. It went out the door on day one. The lesson to me in that was you can do your homework and make sure you read, you study and you understand what you're getting into, but you also have to be super flexible in this life to enjoy it. I have a personal philosophy and values written down, but that's it. I want to see what comes and be open to the possibility. My personal philosophy is to love freely, live on your own terms, be present, do good and always be you. The last thing is to explore. Never stop.

The Virtual Campfire | Rhett Power | Building Success Through Accountability

This is brilliant.

My values sync up with that because my top four are love, courage, accountability and truth. Truth being live your truth, seek truth and seek. Those are my two things that philosophy and those values are what guides me. That's all coming from those crucible, growth and inflection moments.

I'm grateful you shared that because this is modeling the way for other people to think about things like, “What is driving me? What are the things that are my ways of understanding myself so that I can use that as a guiding light to drive me forward?” One of the things that I realized as you were sharing is a sense of like, you have been doing this all along. As you got to know yourself better, it got clearer to you that these are the things that make you who you are. The clearer you are about yourself, the more you can be more impactful and more powerful in the work that you do. That's what a lot of people realize as they come along in the world is they realize that the true power of themselves is in knowing themselves.

I put this quote out there before, and it's one of the ones I live by, but this quote is something I wrote in an article a couple of years ago, “The things that excite you are not random. They're connected to your purpose.” I believe that's what you follow. I think that's been my kind, guiding light.

The things that excite you are not random. They're connected to your purpose, and that's what you follow.

We could keep on going, but I want to make sure I leave some time for our last question, which is always a fun one. The last question is, what are 1, 2 or 3 books that have had an impact on you and why?

I love this question. I think sometimes people are thinking it's something I read many years ago, some profound seminal piece of literature that everybody talks about. Because of my short-term thing, the things I'm reading now are the things that I always say here because they're having an impact on me now. My brain doesn't work about something I read many years ago. I'm doing this coaching class and we've been talking a lot about listening. It made me want to read.

I picked up Mark Goulston. Mark died. He was a good friend. I picked his book up again called Just Listen because I'm in the middle of this class and we're talking about active listening and we're talking about how to listen with intent and how to listen with. I've picked that book up and I think it's a powerful read. In our society, where we're not listening to each other and we're talking over each other. As I try to get to be a better coach and a better person, I think trying to listen better is important. His book is called Just Listen: Discover The Secret To Getting Through To Absolutely Anyone. It is what I'm reading.

I read Seeing Around Corners by Dr. Rita McGrath. I read that because I had her on my show. I was blown away by Seeing Around Corners. I highly recommend if you're a CEO or founder look at that because it is proof. You have to be able to see, look ahead and take the time to do it and make that part as a leader to build the time in to be able to see what the future is going to look like. Take the time, not just be so focused on now, but to be able to look ahead. That book was insightful in that way because it's true. It made me reflect on my building a company. When I was busy on the truck, making deliveries and trying to make the business work, we were failing it. Only when we take the time to look, be strategic, look ahead, plan and do the things that we need to do, the right things that we need to do if we grow again. That book reminded me of that time. It struck a chord.

I read Rita's book a long time ago, but now I'm like, “I got to go and reread that because I'm now inspired to go check it out.” These books have been around for a while, but it goes to show you that sometimes it's okay to go back and reread these things and see what you missed the first time. You are different now. The book stays the same, but it reads differently.

I don't know why I'd never read Rita's work. I should have, but discovered something for the first time.

Even rereading an old book is something that I always find fascinating. I reread The Art Of Possibility by Benjamin Zander one million times. Every time I find 1 or 2 things in it, I'm like, “That's right. I never thought about that. Now I see it differently because I'm different. I've grown.”

You get what you need at the time.


I have to thank you so much for all of your brilliance and your stories. I want to keep on going. This has been cool. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Thank you for having me.

Before I let you go, I want to make sure that readers know where to find you if they want to learn more about your world. I know you've got a lot of books out there too that you've written. We didn't even talk about those. Why don't you share a little bit of the one-stop shopping or some places where people can find you?

You can find out all that information at Google it and it'll take you to Forbes and Rolling In Style. It'll take you to all the articles and to books. The last book was called The Entrepreneurship Book Of Actions. A book that I co-wrote with Dr. Suzy Burke and Ryan Berman Susie on Self-Talk, which is coming out in early 2025 January. I’m excited about that. I’m working on another one. Michael and I had put together a proposal for one, and I think I had to recalibrate that plan. I think I'm going to write that book, but that's down the road. That's not our Transactional Society, but I'm excited about Self-Talk book that's going to come out. That has been finished. We're doing editing right now and in the process, should have some advanced copies later in the summer., look me up there and go wherever you want to go.

Watch this space. I can't wait to check out your new books coming on the horizon and continue to follow your thought leadership and many brilliant insights. Thanks to the readers for coming on the journey.

Thank you.

Important Links

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!