Early on in my career as an educator, I was fortunate enough to be placed in a leadership role as a varsity head coach. In hindsight, I was not ready for that position and often found obstacles in front of me that either I created or believed were created by others. The reality is that I was given an opportunity to grow and develop as a leader because someone believed in me. I did not see it that way at the time because of the mindset I brought to the situation. All I saw were obstacles that prevented me from being successful. Nearly 20 years later, I am in a different leadership role as a school principal and work every day towards seeing those obstacles for what they truly are: opportunities. I also see it as my responsibility to help those around me have the same mindset.
Obstacles we believe exist and blame for our lack of success:
Lack of Support — Too often, we cite a lack of support from others as the reason we cannot make a change. We feel that we are not given the resources or the time to be successful. We actually start to use these words as excuses for why we cannot be successful. Before pointing the finger and looking externally, we need to look internally first to see if we are supporting ourselves. Health through diet and exercise, relationship building, planning, etc. If you are averse to looking in the mirror and making change then all the support in the world is not going to help you. Once you make those internal changes, you can begin to look outside yourself and I am confident you will be able to identify the support that already exists. It may not look like the support you hoped for or feel you need but it is there. The opportunity that exists for you is determining how you can use that support to make change!
Lack of Resources — To a certain degree, we are all in the same boat with regard to resources. They are finite. You may have greater access to resources than someone else does but they are still finite and do not always provide us with what we believe we “need” to be successful. Identify what you want to accomplish, evaluate the resources available and move forward. The greatest resource on most teams is human capital. How can you give back to the team so they will want to give more?
In The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer state that clear, honest, and respectful communication results in your team feeling valued and committed to the organization.
They go on to label the four nourishers for team progress: respect, encouragement, emotional support, and affiliation. While there may be a limit on your resources that is beyond your control, you do have the ability to nourish your team and that may be all that you need to make progress and find success.
Lack of Talent — Whether you are promoted within or take on a leadership role with a new company, there is already a team in place. You most likely had very little input in assembling this team and need to identify areas of strength as well as areas of growth. How you approach the need for growth will go a long way in your success as well as that of your organization. If it is viewed as an obstacle and you do not believe success is possible based on the lack of talent, you are not going to last long in your position. This is your opportunity to cultivate and grow talent within the organization but you need to have the right mindset. Teddy Roosevelt stated, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This idea is further highlighted in Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor. She states that a lack of praise and criticism can have disastrous effects on a team which is why you need to provide both in detail.
If you are a leader and there is a lack of talent in your estimation, it is your responsibility to address that, as Scott states, “Raise the bar — there’s no such thing as a B player.” Make the most of the opportunity to develop your people.
Lack of Leadership — Eric Kapitulik brought his organization, The Program, to work with our lacrosse team when I was the head coach about 10 years ago and he spoke with me about coaches who lament a lack of leadership on their teams. He then pointed out that we were the problem as coaches because we were not developing leaders along the way. If developing leaders is important to your team, program, or business you have to commit to it. You miss the point when you see the lack of leadership within the system as an obstacle instead of an opportunity. You get to develop your leadership team which can have a tremendous impact within your organization for years to come. The bottom line is that a lack of leadership within the organization is a failure on your part and you need to turn this into an opportunity by making it a point to develop leaders. Give others the opportunity to take on a project, to lead a meeting, etc. Ask them to reflect on the experience and give feedback.
Not enough Time — Every one of us has the same number of hours in a day, week, month and year. We can complain about the long meetings, line out our door, our kids’ sports schedules, etc or we can take control of the time we have allotted.
Greg McKeown boils it down in his book,Essentialism: Disciplined Pursuit of Less, “If you do not prioritize your life someone else will.”
He elaborates on this idea when he provides an interesting note on the word priority which was introduced into the English language in 1400. Roughly 500 years later, we pluralized the word and that now leaves us feeling that we cannot meet the demands on our time. You need to take control of your time by identifying the work that is important to you. The reality is we choose how we spend our time! Your mindset needs to shift from I do not have time for this activity to I choose not to spend time on this activity because it is not helping my team or me grow. Either go with the MIT (most important task method) or perhaps the Eisenhower Matrix. Regardless of the approach, time is only an obstacle when you fail to bring the right mindset. Everyone gets the same 24 hours each day and you should see it as an opportunity!
If you are leading a team, a division, a company or your family, your responsibility is to eliminate obstacles from your path and that of others so success is the only option. The best way to do this is to change your mindset by seeing these obstacles more clearly: these are opportunities! This change in mindset will have tremendous results for you and those you work with every day.