Why Leaders Get Stuck

Written by on August 27, 2014

dv1494017You’ve been at your job for a few years or more. You know the job and what is expected of you. You know your employees, what makes them tick, what ticks them off, how to get the most out of them, and what they will do in each situation. You also know the shareholders, the mission statement, the forecasts, the risks, and the rewards.

In short, you’ve found your rhythm.

Then it happens. Gradually things start to change, not enough to make you do anything differently, just enough to make you loosen your collar a bit. There are new employees, new policies, new products, maybe a new board member or two. Change is all around you. You don’t even remember the moment it happened. This slackening does not happen all at once. It was a deleted email here and there, a missed meeting or two, a casual comment that you let go. It was a million things that added up to this.You got too comfortable and now something is wrong.

By comfortable we mean that you just started to care a little less about the details. You were more easily distracted. You were not as invested emotionally in the results. You felt confident and secure in your role. Frankly, you wanted to just coast for a bit. After all, you certainly earned it… or so you kept telling yourself.

And now you’re being passed by. New opportunities aren’t as plentiful. You used to be included in everything and everyone seemed to want your input, but now your opinion doesn’t seem to hold the same value for some reason.

If you had been paying attention, you would have seen this coming. When was the last time you actually got up before the alarm because you were so excited to get to work? When was the last time you read a self-improvement book? Attended a workshop? Learned a brand new skill? When was the last time you felt “inspired?”

The hardest part about change is giving up your confidence. Learning something new could mean you aren’t the authority for a short time. You won’t be the “go to” person. When you continually try to improve, it’s harder to keep up the pretense of, “I’ve got this figured out,” that so many great leaders seem to possess.

But do they really have it all figured out?

I remember the day I heard the comment, “The thing I love about this job is that you never really arrive.” It was in middle of a professional “coasting” moment. I had a good year the year before, had hit all of my targets, and was feeling good about my contributions to our company. I don’t remember who the speaker was, I just remember how I felt upon hearing that my “best” would now be expected of me and my team. Seriously? I had just knocked it out of the park and you want me to do even better next year? Can’t we just celebrate this amazing year for a while before you lay the hammer down? How unfair.

At the time, it seemed like a punch in the gut but it would happen year after year. All businesses are striving for growth and if you aren’t growing…we’ve all heard this before….then you’re dying.

So it’s time to go back to work. Time for a gut check and an honest evaluation. A personal inventory is always important but even more so if you feel you’ve plateaued. If we were to ask about your leadership, what would your team say? What would be in the very private survey they took?

Be fair to yourself. Not all reflection should be critical. Write BOTH lists. Where do you get high marks and where do you fall a bit short?

What are you going to do about the areas where you fall short? What are some growth opportunities you need to take advantage of? When will you start, and what will you do?

Perhaps now is a good time?