How Leaders Hinder Their Growth, Part I

If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know that one of my favorite lines is,

“No organization can consistently perform at a level beyond the capacity of their senior executive.”

Which means that if you’re the person at the top of your business, you’re both the primary reason for your business’ success AND the primary reason why it’s stuck where it is.

Which is why one of the core beliefs behind Wired To Grow is, “Grow the leader, grow the organization.” If you’re the primary point person in your business (or organization), then the fastest way for you to generate more growth for your business is to grow your capacity and capabilities first.

And the fastest way to grow your capacity as a leader is to eliminate whatever constraints there are that are currently hindering growth—and we all have them. It doesn’t matter what the size of your business, you could be doing more. If you’re currently generating $1M, you could be doing $5M. If you’re currently doing $10M, you could be doing $100M. If you’re currently doing $100M, you could be doing $1B.

In light of that, and if you’d like to unleash more of the potential in your business, then you’ll want to work on eliminating each of the following constraints that tend to be true for most leaders.

1. Giving in to Preference Bias

No matter who you are, we all have preconceived notions of what we believe to be true. Some people call this, “Seeing only validation.” Other’s call it “The red car problem.” But, it all means the same. We all have a preference to seeing what we want to see.

And no where is this more critical in a business than in your position. If the person at the top isn’t seeing the world as it is, that’s critical for both the leader and the organization.

For example, if you believe you’re a great leader (and you’re not) then you’ll only see validation for your great leadership and not the evidence to the contrary. If you believe you’re a great manager/coach, then you’ll only see the evidence that supports your belief, not the evidence to the contrary.

Likewise, if you believe that your customer service is great, then you’ll only see evidence that supports your belief, not the contrary. Or, if you believe your team is great at getting things done, you’ll only see evidence that supports that belief, not the contrary.

Perception bias is deadly. And we all have it. The only way to overcome it is to invite others and data into your world that bring information that doesn’t always support your position. I’m frequently interacting with leaders who’ll say to me, “Everything is great,” until I bring up their key numbers and state, “Well it seems like your numbers are telling a different story.”

So, how has “seeing only validation,” affected you and your business?

2. Not Inviting Opposing Views

This one is completely understandable. After all, with as much information that hits us and as much work that has to be done and as many decisions that have to be made, the last thing most of want to do as leaders is invite opposing views into our decisions and conversations.

But, if you followed point one, you should understand why this is necessary. While we may prefer speed, when it comes to decision-making, speed is not always our friend. It’s like Detroit in the 70’s. When everyone at each of the big three was driving a big American made car, there was no opposition. And look what happened?

DeBono calls this Black Hat thinking (from his six hats work). But the basic idea is that you have to invite in the bad news scenario before you make the final decision. What could go wrong? What are we not seeing? Is there another option? What are we blind to? Who disagrees? What could come back to bite us?

Another way to avoid this problem is to make sure you hire people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. Or who come from other disciplines/industries. Or who have different life experiences. Or are from a different gender or race or nation, etc.

Note: This isn’t a call to prolonged decision-making. The speed of business today doesn’t allow that. But it is a call to invite people with opposing ideas into the conversation. As a leader, you should know that very few people are willing to “speak truth to leadership.” Most tell us what they believe we want to hear—not the truth. Therefore, it’s critical that you create the best possible chance for the truth to get to you.

So, how have you fallen prey to not inviting opposing views into your leadership?

 3. Not Finding an Accountability Partner/Coach/Mentor

As you know, leadership is lonely. No one else on your leadership team or staff will ever fully understand what it’s like to be in your position. Nor, can they be the ones to hold you accountable since part of your job is holding them accountable (which is why, if you have a board, you shouldn’t have any of your employees on it).

Unfortunately, what happens is that business owners and other senior executives are left up to their own accountability—which is a failed proposition. Since we all have a sin nature, we’re all great at excuse making.

The only way to counteract that from an organizational perspective is to find someone from outside the business/organization who can hold us accountable and speak truth into our lives. In addition, if you opt for a coach/mentor, you’ll also have a safe person outside your business with whom you can process what you’re thinking (something you can’t always do with your staff and/or board).

Everyone needs accountability. And here’s the deal. The more frequent the check ins, the faster the change. For example, if you find an accountability partner and you check in once a month and you don’t complete your task within that month, you have another 28-31 days to get it done.

If you check in once a week and you don’t’ get something done, you only have another seven days to get it done. However, if you check in with someone once a day, well, you’ll only have 24 hours to get it done.

So, who do you think gets more accomplished during the course of a year?

Note: While I think every business owner/leader ought to have a coach/mentor, that’s usually a paid relationship. So, my recommendation would be that you should have a coach/mentor as well as another person who will function as your accountability partner (possibly another business owner or similar leader who gets you and what you do). And, as I mentioned before, the more often you talk (daily/weekly vs. monthly), the more progress you’ll make.

So, how has not having an accountability partner allowed you to get away with making excuses for you not getting things done when you said you would?

If you want to build a great business, you’ve got to grow and get their first. However, you’re ability to get there fast, will always be hindered if you don’t address issues like the three above!

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some other ideas about what holds leaders back, feel free to contribute by entering your ideas in the comments section below (or by clicking here >> if you’re reading this by RSS or email).

P.P.S. Part two will be coming shortly!

Photo from Darril Rohl on Flickr

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