Uncovering Growth Roadblocks: How to Get in Position to Be in Position

Ken Larson

Let’s flashback 30 or so years.

I was playing basketball for the University of Victoria Vikings, and we had a rather fire-and-brimstone coach. One afternoon at practice, he’s trying to teach us a new match-up zone defense (one where we had to think more than we usually do – which meant thinking for the first time for many of us).

No matter how he explained it, we just weren’t getting it and he was growing more frustrated by the second — on the verge of erupting.

He was at the point where he was dragging us by our jerseys to where we were supposed to be. His face was bright red, steam coming out of his ears, and finally, he just stops. He paused for so long I thought he was having a coronary.

Then he said something very profound that has stuck with me ever since, “Guys … you have to understand that you need to get into position before you can be in position.” We were still collectively confused.

He continued, “You can’t guard a guy on the court if you’re stuck on the bench.” THAT … I got! We all must earn our way onto the court. “You can’t guard a guy over here, if you’re over there.” So, the metaphor became: What do we need to do to get in position to be in position to do the things we want to do?

30 years later I still use this metaphor with my clients. Everyone I’ve worked with has experienced some obstacle preventing them from getting into the right position, or the right role, to do what’s best for the growth of themselves, as well as the organization.

Here Are Three Real-life Examples

 Example 1

A business growth agency I worked with had three leaders within the organization. They were all just doing their own thing, and not working as a unit. Through the coaching process, they each came to the realization that none of them saw how the three of them fit together. When they experienced this ‘aha moment’, things started changing for them.

They each realized their strengths, desires, and what they didn’t need to worry about anymore because the other members of the team had it covered. Their respective and collective roles became much clearer, which helped get them in the right position to work better as a unit.

Example 2

A non-profit CEO I worked with was bogged down with emails, calls, and everyday tasks so bad he nearly missed a meeting with a potential donor — someone willing to give his organization a couple million dollars! Through pure coaching and discovery, he realized he had to hire an EA (executive assistant) immediately, or he was going to dig himself into a deeper position negatively affecting the organization.

Example 3

An owner running a contracting company came to the realization his leadership team was not the “A” team he needed. He had a surplus of B (and mostly C) players but was too nice and not the kind of guy to have the tough conversations. He ended up bringing on a second in command who had thick enough skin to fire the unproductive B and C players, ultimately saving themselves $1.4 million in expenses for the next year.

The organization reshuffled their entire leadership deck and saw incredible results, but it took them being days away from foreclosure to have their ‘aha moment’ and breaking through to a new level of performance and results!

So, how do you know if you’re in the right position or not? It depends on where you want to be. Don’t wait until it’s almost too late to begin figuring it out.

Start by identifying what the desired position is for you and your goals, and then analyze where you are today. From here, it’s a matter of work — what are all the steps you need to take between here and there? Now break those steps down into actionable items that will get you closer and closer to your goal. Your plan should be action-oriented and directly in alignment with getting in position to be in the right position.

Ask yourself: what ‘handcuffs’ have I placed on myself because of my own habits or situation; externally or internally, what is holding me back from getting in the position I aspire to be in? What is holding my people and business back?

In other words, what’s getting in the way?

Do any of these ‘handcuffs’ sound familiar?

  • Bad time and priority management.
  • Too many emails.
  • Not taking breaks.
  • Balancing personal and professional issues.
  • Poor meetings, too many meetings, or unproductive meetings.
  • Poor communication.
  • Lack of clarity.
  • Lack of measurement and metrics.
  • Lack of accountability.
  • Spending too much time managing and too little on executive thinking.
  • Working too much in the business and not on the business, including poor delegation, hiring issues, and not being able to say ‘no’ often enough.
  • Need I proceed any further? You get it!

These are all common roadblocks preventing you from getting into position. And some leaders are so unaware … so in it … that they’ve become blind to other possibilities and solutions.

The most rewarding part of coaching for me are those ‘aha moments’ — helping people realize new perspectives … and enough of a new perspective to set them on a new course of action to truly do something different.

The Takeaway

It’s incredibly challenging to get this kind of clarity on your own — No one can see their lives with the clarity necessary to make the breakthroughs they need.

Every person on this planet has blinders on from their own patterns, upbringings, experiences, and habits, causing them to see things from only one or two very limited angles. Everyone needs someone who can ask the tough questions to help open their perspectives. This is the essence and value of coaching.

Like Yogi Berra said, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” You must be able to see things differently before you can do something to fix it.

So, are you putting yourself in a position, to be in position?

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