Jennifer opened her business eight years ago. She was proud of the growth of her reputation and her earnings, and she saw the potential for a significant infusion of customers and growth. Her core team had steadily grown over the years, showing consistent dedication and commitment to the success of the firm. Recently, two of the most respected team members moved into management roles, freeing Jennifer to focus on sales and business development. Jennifer knew that this required an adjustment by everyone, as the managers took responsibility for work that was previously directed by her. She was tired after eight years of being everything to everyone and eager to see this transition complete.
Go ahead, nod your head if this sounds familiar. Maybe you are the leader in this scenario, or perhaps you were a staff member. You are in good company. Most successful businesses and leaders hit this stumbling block during growth.
And even though common, the above scenario often creates a downward spiral that is costly.
It is common to want to assign blame. Are the managers not capable? Is Jennifer a control freak? In my experience, those are the wrong questions. The dynamic at play is complex and subtle, making the use of simple characterizations - good/bad, right/wrong - unproductive. I'm offering an alternative, empowering construct for uncovering the source of this commonly experienced roadblock to success.
Humans are complicated thanks to our evolved brains - yes, the primary enabler of your success is often responsible for tripping you up. Our brains function on two levels, the conscious and the unconscious, and it is the unconscious mind that acts as the stealthy, unseen challenger to our expressed commitments. Let's look at it in action.
When examined in this light, we uncover the tug of war between equally worthy commitments. Any CEO who failed to embrace accountability for company reputation, stakeholder confidence, and employee satisfaction would put her company at risk and be judged negatively by investors. The roadblock is not about the competing commitment; it is about our unconscious response, which is formed by habit, untested assumptions, and fear. Jennifer is stuck in a cycle that is fueled by good intentions, and nonetheless at cross-purposes.
In their traditional context, roadblocks provide a safety barrier. They communicate, "Don't come this way; it's hazardous." We are compelled to slow down, disengage our "autopilot" brain, and pay closer attention to what we are doing. As a CEO Coach, I call that a learning moment on a silver platter. So go ahead, claim it by following this simple detour.
Jennifer began working with Ignite Your Extraordinary: CEO Coaching. She started asking for feedback from her managers about when and how she involved herself in their responsibilities. She invited her account services manager to travel with her to clients to facilitate a warm hand-off for questions and follow up regarding ongoing work. Jennifer practiced asking questions, creating alignment among her leadership team and confidence in their shared approach to delivering on their market differentiators.