I was quite pleased with my Thoughts for the weekend last week about “No man is an island” and the responses.

No-one’s career (whether it’s yours or one of your employees) is ever one of continuous progress. We all progress for a bit then hit an occasional plateau. Our job or business changes and becomes harder. We must learn new skills and change old habits that had served us well. What got us here, won’t get us there.

It’s a theme we’ve been covering over the past weeks as part of the “Key skills section of The Backley Black Mindsetting programme.

The time on the plateau and beyond goes something like this:

  1. Introduction: I don’t know what I’m doing but I haven’t been doing it for long so that’s ok
  2. Denial: I am doing a good job despite all the evidence and results that suggest I’m not
  3. Blame: I know I’m not doing a good job but its someone else’s fault for changing the rules or not doing their job properly
  4. Despondency: I’m never going to do a good job and / or I’m getting really fed up that someone has overtaken me
  5. Realisation: I can do a better job, but this old dog needs to learn a few new tricks and throw away some old habits

Then suddenly you are off the plateau and the next steps are:

  1. Progress: I can feel myself getting better at this every day
  2. Satisfaction: I know I’m doing a really good job now
  3. Validation: Better results and financial rewards

I’ve gone through that cycle above more times than I care to remember as A4G has grown and evolved.

Some of you who are on stages b to d probably won’t believe me, but honestly, the length of time you spend on the plateau is entirely up to you. You will never get to f unless you go through e. And when you get to e it’s time to become a BIO (short for “Bring It On”).

Because there are two types of people in this life. BIOs and non-BIOs.

BIOs see a challenge and (usually after a sharp intake of breath) scream “Bring It On” at the top of their voice. Well maybe not at the top of their voice. Maybe it’s internalised or perhaps shouted in the car whilst driving to work as opposed to whilst standing on their desk with clenched fists and veins pumping in their neck.

BIOs are fertile ground for new ideas. They observe, listen and learn. They analyse and test out those new ideas, decide what will work for them and give it a go.

NON-BIOs are like rocks. New ideas bounce off them like rain on concrete. The plateau becomes their home.

Anyway, one of my team who spent a bit of time on a plateau recently, but is clearly at stage f at the moment sent me a really good email which in amongst some great observations said, “rocks will always be rocks unfortunately”.

My initial response was to disagree with the last comment. After all, in my considerable experience there were plenty of people who managed to convert from being rocks to being fertile soil.

But then yesterday morning I went out for a run and spent a bit of time thinking about this weekend’s email. I came to the conclusion that the rocks in the past that I thought I’d converted weren’t actually rocks at all; they were just behaving like rocks.

But at some point, they decided not to behave like a rock anymore. God knows what made them make that decision. I’d like to think it was something I said but it might have been something they saw on the telly one night. We’ll never know. But the point is that they were in complete control of that decision and underneath all that rock like behaviour they were fertile soil after all.

On the radio a couple of weeks ago, there was a bloke of about 60 who said he’d never been abroad, didn’t want to go abroad and didn’t want anyone from abroad to come here. Rocks will always be rocks.

So, what are the things that are holding you back? Last Summer I did a series of emails about the vital ingredients for a successful business. Mark yourself and your business out of ten on the following list:

  • A clear vision and goals for your business
  • The correct roles for the owners or get the right combination of roles for partners
  • A team you can rely on (but not over-rely on)
  • Communication of goals
  • Great customer service
  • Accurate measurement of performance
  • Sound cash flow
  • Sound sales and marketing strategy
  • Good knowledge about your industry and competition
  • Efficient systems

Hang on a minute. If you’re honest, you probably skimmed over a few of those points. The ones you’re not comfortable with or that you don’t think apply to you. Read the list again. They ALL apply to your business. The ones you skimmed over are the ones where the problems are. The ones you lingered on lovingly are the things you are strong at.

For most people, your strengths create your weaknesses.

Think about this. Other than as a result of boats being sunk, who are most likely to drown at sea?

The answer is good swimmers.

They are the ones least likely to prepare properly for a swim in the sea. Least likely to check the tides. Least likely to check up on local conditions.

Their strength created their weakness.

It’s the same in business. Let’s say you have the gift of the gab. Able to think on your feet in most situations.

You are then the least likely to prepare for a big sales meeting. Least likely to research your prospect. Least likely to have a system listing out all the things you might need.

But what about your weaknesses?

Are you ignoring them? Or are you screaming “Bring It On”?

The business that has been single-handedly driven by you and your personality and knowledge but is now creaking and error-strewn is probably being held back by its failure to evolve into a systems-led operation instead of personality-led one. What got you here won’t get you there.

And what about your team? How many of them are BIOs and how many are non-BIOs?

How many of them are prepared to step outside their comfort zone?

And what are you doing about it if it’s holding the company back?

Maybe confronting someone who won’t step outside their comfort zone is outside your comfort zone. There’s a thought.

Staying inside your comfort zone is usually about avoiding short-term pain. Usually that short term pain is simply the fear of failure.

But failure is a necessary part of succeeding. All those scientists who have invented a vaccine to protect against Coronavirus know that they had to fail many times before they succeeded.

The key is not to avoid failure but to fail in completely different ways each time. And each time they failed, they tried something else.

If you do that, guess what? The problem is usually solved. Persistence pays off.

Of course, sometimes some of your team give up on themselves. They never get past b, c or d and they leave. I suspect that there are plenty of ex-staff members out there who were capable of more. But denial and blame are powerful emotions and there will be plenty who will refuse to look back and realise that the reason they got stuck on that plateau was more about them than us.

What got you here, won’t get you there.

Have a good Easter weekend.

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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