Leaders often find themselves at a place in their career where they feel like they are stuck. You’ve reached a certain level of success and for whatever reason you are having a hard time moving forward. This can be frustrating, demoralizing, and confusing. You can feel like you’re caught in a bit of a no man’s land – not enough authority to execute on everything you want to do but not wanting to step back into the areas of responsibility you’ve progressed past. So what to do?

Before you give up – please! – you need to consider whether the reason you are stuck is because you are not able to move forward OR you think you are not able to move forward. Before you dismiss this as simply “miracle mindset” talk, let’s recognize the important of mindset when it comes to what we believe is possible. In her book “Mindset,” Carol Dweck outlines a process for you to recognize and identify where your fixed mindset is actually holding you back from imagining what might be possible for the future. Dweck speaks of the importance of curiosity and tenacity as being incredibly powerful for the leader who finds themselves at this place in life where they’re just stuck.

But what about today? What can you do today to consider your mindset and how it may be influencing your perception of where you find yourself? One really interesting question to consider is this: Who says I can’t? When you’re considering your future, a career move, starting a new initiative, or taking on a new project, is your mind going to what’s possible or all the reasons why it won’t work? If you’re stuck on the impossibility of what’s next I’ll ask again, who says you can’t?

“I can’t” can be simplified down to two realities: prohibition and inhibition. Prohibition is what you are not allowed to do. Inhibition is based on what they say you can’t do. (There’s always a they!) Prohibition is the speed limit which says you are not allowed to go faster than a certain limit. Inhibition is they said you can’t go fast so you don’t. Generally prohibition shows up in one of three ways: a barrier, a hurdle, or a gap. Leaders who feel stuck come up against one of these three and have a decision to make: Who says you can’t? When there’s a barrier, who says you can’t go around it? When there’s a hurdle, who says you can’t jump over it? When there’s a gap, who says you can’t fill it? Now I’m not saying there are never times when we simply cannot move forward, but good leaders must always take the opportunity to get outside their heads a little bit and really evaluate whether the obstacle in front of them is a prohibition or an inhibition.

Let’s quickly look at each of these prohibitions and consider what might be possible:

  • Barrier: This might be a legal restriction which simply does say you are not permitted to do this. Can you think of something you’d identify in your current situation as a barrier? Now consider, what’s possible? Is there a way to (ethically, legally) move around the barrier so you can move forward?
  • Hurdle: Leaders come up against obstacles which sometimes stop us in our path. We don’t have the skills needed to get over it, and so sometimes we stop because they don’t understand how hard this is. Yes, hurdles are hard to overcome, but what are you doing now that was hard when you first started? What new skills can you learn to help you jump over this hurdle?
  • Gap: Sometimes we get to a place in the path where there’re a hole that needs to be filled in. Do you need another team member? Do you need answers? When you think of a gap you’re facing, can you clearly identify what’s needed to fill it in so you can keep moving?

As a takeaway, identify a clear example of each type of obstacle you’re facing in your leadership – a barrier, a hurdle, and a gap. Rather than seeing these as prohibitions, can you recognize how these may be inhibitions and you simply need to consider new possibilities as a path forward for success? Remember, who says you can’t!


Now that you’ve gone through the 7 Days of Coaching, click through for a summary of the 7 Days with reminders of the coaching questions asked to go along with each tool: 7 Days of Coaching – Summary

Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset – updated edition: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Robinson.

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