I recently had the honor of being among other CEOs that are disrupting, innovating, community-forward and impassioned to change the world one business and person at a time. The event was CEO Convergence, designed to bring together CEOs for a day of authentic connecting, sharing, and community building. The event was held at the Charlotte Whitewater Center, a favorite place of mine to hike out in nature, not far from where I live.
Amidst sharing sessions, we had the option to choose an outdoor activity. I chose to do the zip line. As our group of zip liners got geared up for the line, we learned that there would be a series of suspended bridges on a ropes course between the two zip lines. I thought to myself:
“No big deal, been there, done that.”
The first zip was fast and invigorating, and the first suspension bridge was slightly intimidating, but expected to be that way. Then I reached the second suspension bridge, and I froze. There was no waist-high railing to hold onto and balance across the swaying bridge. The sides were vertical ropes spaced about three feet apart with the cable they were attached to from the foundation of the bridge on either side too high to grab. Even though I was not afraid of heights and knew I was cabled safely into my gear, I saw impending doom if I took that first step on what appeared to be a wide tightrope of planks.
I shouted up to the course techs stating I needed to stop, and the answer? “Sorry, there is no way to get you down from here, you are going to have to move forward with the course.”
A couple of the CEOs behind me shouted words of encouragement, and I took a deep breath and proceeded to step on the bridge. My hands held high grabbed the cable above me to balance me versus using the yard-spaced ropes on the side. I made it through that suspension bridge and the next four were the same design. They were easy compared to that second one. I had navigated it and figured out how to push through.
As I traversed that second bridge that I was convinced I could not do before stepping on it, I thought about how I never thought of myself as being afraid of anything. Being an entrepreneur, taking risks is just a part of the venture. Yet, I see our clients all the time being hesitant, because of being too uncomfortable with what might lie ahead.
And then it got me thinking.
What are the suspension bridges in my life or my business that I am afraid to lean into?
Upon returning from the outdoor adventure, I made a profound connection during a learning facilitated by NLP expert, Robert Fish. As he shared an introduction to Neuro Linguistic Programming, he said the following:
“What usually stunts growth is a limiting belief.”
When I heard this, I thought to myself, “Limiting beliefs are our suspended bridges.” In contemplating this further, I thought of five different limiting mindsets that I have either experienced myself or helped other CEOs navigate through.
1. Out of Comfort Zone: What I realized in that moment of wanting to stop and not step on that second bridge is we all have comfort zones that can be challenged, even the most brave and fearless of us. I went back to my business and spent some time thinking about where I may have limited my company’s growth due to a limiting belief that was not serving me. While I had done many suspension bridges in my lifetime, the one I was forced to navigate that day appeared to be the riskiest one I had ever traversed to-date. So, it was new territory for me. Now on the other side of it, I feel more confident, and I saw how I figured out a way to navigate it and gain that confidence. Whatever is new territory is meant to be explored and understood. Venture out into it.
Momentum Building Decision #27
Whatever is out of your comfort zone is a learning experience.
2. Uncertain of Next Step(s): When something had momentum at one time, and then all of the sudden it is in limbo, it is most likely because there is uncertainty about what the next step or steps need to be. You believe you cannot move forward effectively. This happened recently with a technology integration meant to streamline and optimize systems within a client company. The integration was supposedly ready to go live, yet there was a myriad of functions that were unclear that made the leadership team, including me as COO On-Call, uncomfortable with taking it live. All progress came to a screeching halt to seek answers to get it back on track. When uncertain, the best next steps are driving towards answers. What is in limbo in your company that needs to get a jump start? What questions need to be asked? What answers need to be further clarified?
Momentum Building Decision #13
Opportunities are hidden within uncertainty.
3. Not Knowing the Answer: As business owners and leaders, we can get caught up in the belief that we need to have all the answers. Guess what? The best CEOs have a team around them with answers, and entrepreneurs and business owners should embrace this same philosophy. Chances are you have already done this, just haven’t recognized it. Where would your business be today if it relied solely on what you knew when you started it to grow it to what it is today? Chances are, it would have not even gotten off the ground or made much headway. Take a look at what you are striving to achieve in your business and what you don’t know to get there. Then find who does know or can get the answer and charge forward.
Momentum Building Decision #21
No one knows all the answers, but someone does.
4. Losing Control: This is a big one with entrepreneurs; a belief that everything within their company must be controlled by them. Nothing will stunt growth more than a micro-managing, control freak business owner. What control do you need to let go of to allow your business to thrive beyond you? What authority do you need to release so others you have hired can do their best work? What systems do you need to automate or streamline so the company can be more efficient and effective? What antiquated processes are you holding onto because that is the way you have always done them? There is a big difference between being in charge and being in control. True leaders are in charge, motivating and inspiring their team to take control of their responsibilities, be accountable, and excel.
Momentum Building Decision #23
Get out of your own way.
Becoming Risk Averse: I see entrepreneurs who took huge risks in the beginning to get their companies off the ground become hesitant to take risks once there are so many people relying on the business continuing to be a success. I get it. You’ve built a solid company and things are humming along. You meet payroll with no problem, have money in the bank, and feel like you are finally living your dream. The problem is, with comfort comes complacency. In my BizGrowth 5.0 blog, 4 Ways a Commodity Mindset Happens, I share how there are four ways a business can become commoditized. If you stop paying attention to what’s happening on the outside of your business’ walls because you are feeling all cozy and together on the inside, you are setting yourself up for potential commoditization. Instead of nestling in, this is an ideal time to be innovative, and identify ways to take your business to its next level of preference and relevancy. This also means you may need to take some risks.
Bottom Line Rule #17
Every business can be commoditized.
Differentiation is key.
There can be a big gap between uncertainty to certainty. The only way to bridge the gap is to get comfortable with what may feel uncomfortable, even unstable, and suspenseful due to not being able to anticipate every possible outcome. This also means embracing your mindset in a way that is serving you versus sabotaging your best efforts to grow yourself, your team, and your company.
So, I leave you with this. In all the instances where limiting beliefs stopped you, what if you were told, “Sorry, you can’t turn back, you must do it. There is no other option.” Where do you think you would be today?
Yours in economic vitality,
P.S. For more insight into wishful and fearful thinking mindsets, download this assessment to identify which ones may be limiting your thinking, and read these BizGrowth 5.0 blogs, Is Wishful Thinking Stagnating Your Business? and Is Fearful Thinking Impacting Your Business?.
P.S.S. A shout out of thanks to Ben McDonald of Destination Wealth and Gary Frey of BGW for hosting the CEO Convergence. They truly know how to take a CEO experience to the next level! Also, kudos of acknowledgement to the event sponsors, TowneBank, Shumaker, McGriff, Pair PEO, and Opkalla. Appreciated!