Writing about the pathway to workplace superstardom reminded me that I encounter quite a few people (usually managers and other organizational leaders) who have the opposite problem — they’re going nowhere. 

They’re chronically ineffective — as people and as leaders.

Their efforts to change and grow as people, or develop leadership skills have stalled — sometimes hopelessly.

I noticed something else about these folks — they have one or more characteristics in common, significant roadblocks to making the changes in their skills, focus or behavior necessary to become more effective, happy and successful.

Here they are — five surefire pieces of evidence that someone’s growth and development are blocked:

1. They’re Not Having Any Fun. They don’t enjoy their lives, or their jobs, or their circumstances to the fullest. What possible motivation does someone have to improve, to learn and to grow if they hate what they’re doing? The best way to achieve mastery at anything is to have a deep passion and commitment to the challenges and problems it throws at you every day. One of the challenges and problems you must enjoy deeply is building yourself.

2. They Live Scattered, Hectic Overloaded Lives. In other words, no margin. For most managers I know, life is like drinking out of a firehose — some gets in your mouth, but most just goes right over your shoulder. The major reason they don’t build themselves (or other people, for that matter) is they simply don’t have, or haven’t fought for, the time and space to reflect on themselves and their behavior, and to devote to the hard work of growth.

3. They Are Unable, Or Unwilling, To See The Truth About Themselves. It’s simple — great leadership starts out as a love affair with the truth. If you can’t, or don’t want to, acknowledge your own shortcomings or ineffective behaviors, how in the world are you going to do anything about them?

4. They’re Self-Absorbed, Unhealthily Focused On Their Own Needs. One of the biggest obstacles to change is a lack of focus on other people, particularly those you lead or those impacted by your behavior and actions. The antidote? Express gratitude daily; other people play, or have played, a role in your success. Acknowledging the contribution of others makes you aware of their presence in your life. And (now follow me on this), the more outward your focus, the greater the chance you’ll care about your impact on others. The more you care, the greater the chance you’ll do something about it.

5. They’re Isolated. Personal change and development is difficult. It’s even more so when you go it alone, without support, encouragement and, most importantly, accountability. People who don’t want to change want to continue to live in the dark, away from scrutiny and feedback. People dedicated to growth seek out partners who will hold them accountable, with whom they can generate mutual support.

Give yourself a score on each of these items; how closely does each describe you? We are all pursuing some sort of goal, from becoming better leaders to losing weight. If you find your own progress blocked, chances are you are struggling with one or more of these characteristics — partially or fully.

My advice to you: (1) have fun, love your problems; (2) fight for margin; (3) fall in love with the truth; (4) thank someone every day; and (5) find a partner.

AuthorJoseph Fusco