Over lunch with one of my clients, he asked an unusually deep question: “In your training, do you try to instill new skills, or do you find you are more effective by removing the hindrances people have to using the skills they already have?”
I was stunned. In decades of training and developing people, I’ve never had a client ask that question. And yet I have wrestled with it, on and off, for decades.
It’s a question that has far larger implications than just an approach to training. It speaks to a fundamental approach to developing ourselves, to building successful businesses, and to dealing with our employees and colleagues.
I’m not talking about those skills that help us to interact with things – computers, software, cell phones, our cars, etc. – more efficiently. It’s not about learning how to click here or there to make something happen. In these kinds of activities, we all need to learn how to make the thing do what we want it to do. For the most part, that requires new knowledge.
Nor am I talking about those endeavors that call on us to refine certain physical behaviors, or acquire knowledge of how things work – shooting a foul shot in basketball, catching a pass in football, doing a flip in gymnastics, or whisking egg whites. Sports, mechanics, cooking and the like all require knowledge and physical skills that are outside of the scope of this post.
All of these activities are more superficial than that to which I am referring. I’m talking about the qualities of character that make us who we are – that influence our relationships with people in our lives and guide our core impulses, our thoughts, and ultimately our actions. Those things that make us uniquely who we are – our inner-most thoughts, our attitudes, and qualities of character. I am not, for example, referring to the ability to create a spreadsheet. Instead, I’m focusing on the quality of character that motivated us to learn how to create that spreadsheet
It is about our quest to become fully who we were created to be – to develop all our potential – not only in us but in those around us over whom we have some influence. How do we become better, more fully developed people; people who operate close to the peak of their potential? How do we translate that into more successful businesses? And how do we help others do the same?
When we focus on individuals, there is a universally-recognized set of qualities that describe the end result of a highly-developed individual. Recently, I wrote a series of articles on the qualities of character that I have observed in great business leaders: great work ethic, integrity, ability and propensity to learn, a drive to do more, humility, self-control and courage. If I were to poll 1,000 business professionals, I’d come up with a very similar list.
The Bible has its list, which it calls “fruits of the spirit.”
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
I could go on with other examples, but you get the idea. With just some minor variations, there is an idea accepted across all cultures and languages of what a fully developed, peak performing human being looks like.
Unfortunately, that is not true when it comes to our ideals for business. Ask 1,000 business leaders what the ideal characteristics of a successful business are, and you’ll receive a variety of answers. This confusion is itself a hindrance to building a successful business. We can’t hit the target if we don’t know where it is.
The two issues, personal development and business success, are, like two strands of a rope, intimately intertwined. It’s almost impossible to build a successful sustainable business, for example, if you are emotionally stunted. On the other hand, those most successful businesses are generally lead by high-character people.
So, the question is “How do we become more of what we could and should be, and how do we translate that into building successful businesses?
Some decades ago, I attended a conference presented by The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. The premise was this: That we are all burdened by events in our childhood that present us with fundamental conflicts about ourselves. We won’t become who we are meant to be without first resolving those conflicts. At this point in my life, I can see the validity of that idea. I have come to see that we are all hindered by ideas, attitudes, and habits that we have acquired mindlessly in our lives. For lack of a better term, let’s call these things negative paradigms. One key to building successful lives and businesses is to intentionally remove the paradigms that hinder our growth.
For example, the world is full of people who believe that a business is all about making money. In the research that I did for The Good Book on Business, I discovered a number of functions of a business that far eclipse the focus on making money. As long as we believe that a business is all about making money, we’ll be forever hindered from developing the full potential of a business. The idea that a business is only about making money is, therefore, a false paradigm that stunts us emotionally and hinders our businesses from reaching their full potential.
Some time ago, I discovered a way to graphically illustrate this idea. Imagine an incredibly powerful light in the shape of a round globe. It gives off radiant, beautiful light that shines for miles around it. Now, imagine that the light sits on the ground. Built around it is the framework for a wooden square. So, the light can still be seen for miles, but the frame of the square casts shadows and so hinders the light in some small way from shining a full 360% around it.
For a Christian, the powerful light is like the Holy Spirit within us. He is the light — a powerful, beautiful, radiant light. But our human frames prevent that light from shining as completely as it could.
Now, imagine what would happen if we took that light in the wooden frame, and nailed a screen to one of the sides. The light shining from that side would be hindered. The light would shine through the holes in the screen, but wouldn’t be as clear or bright because of the layer of material hindering it. Now, imagine several layers of screen nailed one on top of the other. After a while, the light would be so hindered that none would shine out.
Much of our lives are spent mindlessly nailing screens to the light that could shine out of us. These screens that hinder the Holy Spirit within us are our habits, ideas, self-image, and attitudes that we have accumulated along the way – in other words, negative paradigms that hinder our growth and the development of our businesses.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders…” Hebrews 12:1
All of this is, among other things, an introduction to a series of articles designed to identify and then remove the negative paradigms that hinder our personal and business success. If any of this makes sense to you, stay tuned.