How Leaders Hinder Their Growth, Part II

If you’re a leader, hopefully you know that the success of your business or organization is significantly impacted by your own capacity as a leader. If you have excess capacity, your business has room to grow. If you don’t, your business will be plateaued.

It’s pretty simple. Why? Because no organization can consistently perform at a level beyond the capacity of their senior leader. As I said in Part I, you are simultaneously both the primary reason for the success of your business and its primary bottleneck.

In order to reduce the bottleneck part of that equation, in Part I, I discussed three ways that business owners, entrepreneurs, and other leaders tend to hinder their own growth as leaders. Now, in Part II, I’ll address three more of those issues.

Note: If you didn’t read Part I, you can do so by clicking on this link >>

4. They Excuse Away Their Weaknesses

I hear this all the time. “I’m just not a numbers person.” “I hate planning.” “I’m an introvert, I don’t do …” “I’m not a good manager/coach” “I’m not good at delegating.” “I’ve never been good at …”

The problem with excuse-making is that it robs each of us of the potential for change and improvement. It’s the old self-fulfilling prophecy issue. If Joe doesn’t think he’s good with numbers, then he won’t do what he needs to do to become competent at numbers. And since he doesn’t do what he needs to do to become competent at numbers, he never gets better at them which means that he feels justified in his belief, “I’m just not a numbers guy.”

Hello! No one gets better at anything without trying. No one wakes up one day and says, “I was terrible at something and now I’m good at it and I didn’t have to do anything to get there.”

If you want to be a great business builder, then you can’t live an excuse-riddled life. You’ve got to become good (even better, great) at all six areas of executive attention (strategy, leadership, management, marketing, money and you).

As the saying goes, it’s the weakest link that breaks the chain. And likewise, in your leadership, it’ll be your weakest areas that will take you down. Avoiding improving where you’re weak is just bad personal development.

Contributing to this problem is the strengths-only group of advisors. Now, I fully understand where they’re coming from. It’s infinitely easier to sell “Focus on your strengths” than “Shore up your weaknesses,” but telling a business leader they can lead well when they’re not great at strategy or leadership or management or marketing or money is pure foolishness.

So, where are you weak as a business leader? Where do you tend to make excuses for yourself? Where are you clearly the bottleneck for your business? Pick one of those issues and come up with a plan to change it over the next three months.

5. They Don’t Play to Their Strengths

If you’re thinking, “Didn’t you just say that advisors who advocate playing to strengths are wrong?” you’ll want to go back and read what I wrote. What I said is that people who advocate a strengths-only approach are shortsighted.

My issue with them is that they make this an either/or issue when it’s really a both/and. In this case, while some leaders hinder their leadership by excusing away their weaknesses, others hinder their growth by not playing to their strengths.

It would be like a football team that has a great passing game and a terrible running game, running most of the time until “they get it right.” That too is pure foolishness.

If you have a great passing team, most of your plays should be in the air. Play to your strengths. However, your passing game will be hindered if the other team knows you can’t run the ball.

On the other hand, if you improve your running game so that it’s a threat, then the other team has to prepare differently and your passing game will get better.

Balance is a myth. So don’t worry about balance. A swimming pool with 50% water and 50% chlorine isn’t a pool you’d want to swim in. You don’t need to be equally good at everything (you just need to be competent at all six of the key areas).

But whatever your strengths are, run with them. To not run with them is foolish.

So what are you the best at? What are your greatest strengths? Whatever they are, make sure you’re using them to their fullest extent. As any good coach will tell you, you win games by playing to your strengths.

6. They Try to Change Too Much At Once

Now, while this principle holds true for your business or organization, this series is focused on you and your personal growth as a leader. And this issue is a common problem in personal development.

For example, reading issues numbers four and five above, you may have made a list like this.

Weaknesses

  • Not good at strategy
  • Not good at casting vision
  • Not good at understanding financial reports
  • Not good at budgeting
  • Not big on networking or asking for referrals
  • Not good at remembering names
  • Not good at managing my time
  • Not good at creating systems
  • Not good at managing people
  • Not good at spreadsheets, etc.

Strengths

  • Good at selling our core product
  • Good at selecting good people
  • Good at product development and innovation
  • Good at risk-taking

Note: In general, most people have more weaknesses listed than strengths.

Now, looking at that list, it’s not unusual for a leader to try to change multiple issues at the same time. However, no one can change 10 things at once. But because so many leaders attempt to change “10 things” at once, nothing changes.

The better option would be to try to change one (max. two) things at once. In fact, I’d suggest that a good rule of thumb is to focus on improving one area of weakness every three months (i.e. one per quarter).

Think about that. If you took one issue, let’s say, understanding financials, and spent the next three months gaining competency in that one area, what kind of impact would that have on your business. If you then took the next three months and focused only on improving, let’s say, your time management, what kind of impact would that have?

If you did that every quarter (focusing on improving one area of weakness per quarter) at the end of year one, you’d have improved in four areas (more than most do in ten years). If you then did that every quarter for the next five years, you’d have improved 20 different areas of weakness.

But, if you choose the typical route of trying to change too many things at once, at the end of five years how many areas of weakness do you think you’d have changed? Exactly. Probably none.

Why? Because no one can move 10 or 20 or 50 things down the field at once. You have to create focus. Both for your business and for yourself.

So, looking at all the issues above, what is the ONE item you want to focus on and improve over the next 90 days?

If you want to grow a great business, you’ve got to become a great business leader. And great leaders are first and foremost learners who work to change themselves before they ask anyone else to do so.

In light of that, and the first six hindrances, may I encourage you to …

1. Constantly be aware of your own perception biases
2. Invite opposing views into your decision-making process
3. Find an accountability partner and coach (and meet weekly and/or daily)
4. Refuse to give in to excusitis (i.e. shore up your weaknesses)
5. Play to your strengths
6. Focus on moving a few things down the field (vs. 50)

To your accelerated success!

P.S. Feel free to contribute to this list by adding your thoughts in the comments section below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by email or RSS feed)

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