#1 barrier to impact & influence

As I’ve been coming up to speed with the amazing GiANT worldwide leadership consulting organisation, they have helped shine a light on perhaps the biggest barrier that holds us all back from greater influence and impact.

I asked my newsletter readers what they thought the #1 barrier to their own impact was, and got a variety of answers, all of which were helpful: for example, worrying too much about what other people think about you; lack of self-belief or confidence; lack of passion.

But let me get to the deeper barrier to influence by telling a true story.

A friend was consulting at a large organisation.  The CFO was an amazingly competent individual who had saved the company millions over the years.   However, he was extraordinarily difficult to get along with; his peers were struggling to work with him, and every time anyone dared confront him with a reality-check on his impact on other people, he simply threatened to leave .

So the guy was competent, but also an arrogant idiot…

My friend was asked to speak to the CFO about this.  As an independent consultant, they hoped his feedback would be taken more constructively.

Awesome job I know:  tell a senior executive at a client that he sucks! But to his credit, my friend agreed to have a go.

<Cameras roll>

The meeting room.  CFO at one end of the long table, frowning, arms crossed.  “What’s this about?”  At the other end, my friend the consultant.

“I’m going to be be honest, Jack.  I’ve been asked to speak to you because you’re impossible to work with, none of your colleagues like you,, and they are all scared of confronting you in case you blackmail them with threats of resignation.”

Bomb detonated!  You can imagine the reaction.  CFO to his feet, blood boiling: “how dare you….”

Some controlled silence.

“Look, you’re a few years off retirement.  Is this really the legacy you want to leave?”

<Freeze frame>

But I think there is a deeper and more fundamental barrier.   Self-preservation.

Self-preservation is that force that makes us step away from genuine relationship and stay at the transactional level.   It’s the barrier that wants to make sure we know what’s in it for us up front.  It’s the wall that keeps us in the realm of ‘low risk, low return’.

And what builds that wall of self-preservation?  Well, GiANT would say it’s when you have something to prove, something to lose or something to hide.

I’ve felt that wall of self-preservation myself.  I see it in myself and try to fight it constantly.  When I break through, things are always better.  When I fail, I get stuck.

Let’s pick up the story again.

<Restart film>

“Is this really the legacy you want to leave?”

More silence.

“You know, I think you are hiding something: what is it?”

A LOT more silence, and then finally the admission.  The CFO had insinuated, years before at interview, that he had a qualification that, in reality, he never entirely completed.  And this secret had turned him into a jerk who dominated and put down all his colleagues!  What was crazy, of course, was that the CFO has proved his competence over many years and the lack of an exam certificate was not going to change that.

To cut a long story short, the CFO decided to come clean, tell his colleagues and begin a two-year process of hand-over to a successor.  Overnight, he became a different person.  With nothing to hide, the wall of self-presrvation came down, and he was finally able to serve his colleagues and – as a result – he ended his life at the company as a highly respected and influential person.

So, what is it to be for you?

Where is the wall of self-perservation that YOU have built?

What are you trying to prove, what do you have to lose, and what do you have to hide?

Behind that wall is a better, richer and more impactful and influential future.  Is it time to break through?

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