The Wall



We have all experienced “walls” in our lives. This is truth for everyone who has challenged the process. If we are growing, walls will spring up to slow us down and divert our attention. Some are in front of us – raising their hands waiting to be recognized and tackled. Others are behind us – affecting our self-confidence and beliefs. Others are silent – reaching out and subverting our progress at strategic times. Whatever the situation, a wall’s sole purpose is to be a “speed bump.” It is about “slowing you down so work doesn’t change too much.” Comfort zones create complacency and resistance.


As leaders, how we handle the “walls” may be a defining point in our careers and even in our lives. Walls are difficult to climb. With sturdy foundations, walls are tough to pick up and throw out of our way. They will not carry on a dialogue with us. Walls provide no feedback. In fact, they exist to slow us down or even derail us. No deals, no compromises – just blood, sweat and tears and teachable moments.


So, why do we become frustrated and lose focus in these situations? Why do we let the walls encompass us? Why do the walls often win? At International Leadership Associates, we have noticed certain strategies in attacking walls:


Just level it – Walls are built to be leveled. It is in our way. It is causing a problem. We just need to get rid of it. This approach requires nothing but mindless action. We flail away at the problem with minimal success. We act with no sense of purpose nor deep understanding of the outcome. It is reactionary all the way. Just attack, attack, attack.


It worked before – Sometimes, we assume that all walls can be conquered with the same approach. We stare at it and remember last year’s plan. It should work again. All walls are different. Fresh approaches are needed and expected in today’s business environment. Customers expect new thinking from their business partners. Mindless action offers no new approaches in solving problems.


Delay, delay, delay – The wall is in front of us, but it will go away. So, let’s. The wall will not shrink or disappear. It will become more menacing the longer it is allowed to stand. Develop the plan and execute it. Do not avoid the issue. Take away the impediments to success.


Deny, deny, deny – We can conquer this situation; but why should we? It really is not a problem. But, we know it is. The wall creates a personal fear. We avoid the struggle. The wall is to be engaged so that you can become stronger.



So, as leaders, how should we address the walls protruding from the landscape? Is there a formula?


Recognition saves time and energy. Identify the “wall” you are confronted with. Why does it exist? Have I created it through my behavior? Does my behavior allow the walls to multiply and flourish? Is it becoming a recognized liability to my leadership? During my years in line management, I remember being hampered with my lack of recognition of a “honest feedback wall.” I was unable to pull the trigger on brutal honesty about a direct report’s performance issues. The team’s drive for results was stymied because I was not frank. Through coaching, I came to recognize the wall and learned to talk directly about performance.


With recognition comes the need for planning. How am I going to attack the wall? What should my approach be in removing the wall? Step back and think about it. It is better to look at the problem from afar than with “your nose pressed against it.” Having the right perspective is critical for successful planning. Step away and gain a clear perspective of the problem. This will give you the confidence to put an actionable plan together.


Be prepared for some ups and some downs. Attacking a difficult wall will not always be a signature effort. Moving sideways and backwards may provide the best solution to removing the wall. The detours often are excellent learning opportunities for future trouble spots. In fact, the true satisfaction comes through the meandering – learning about new places and ideas from different people. Growth through meandering because of a wall – this is difficult for us to accept.


Take action! You have recognized, planned and meandered. Now is the time to attack it. Your confidence is up; you understand the actions it will take. You have prepared. Now take it on. Throw procrastination out; bring action in. Denial is dumped because recognition has surfaced. Move forward and dismiss this wall from the horizon. Allow it never to show up again! Not to take action demonstrates a lack of confidence in self and the support system around you.


Finally, encourage the heart! You have tackled a major obstacle. It is no longer “your strait jacket.” An impediment to your success has withered on the vine. It is no longer powerful and making you powerless. You are enjoying a powerful moment. So, celebrate!!! It is a WOW! Recognize the people who supported you though the experience. Celebrate breaking down the wall. And focus on “Letting all the Walls come down.”


Imagine climbing a 40-foot wall. Recognize that it is a tremendous obstacle for you. Treat it that way. Step back and think about your plan. Understand that meandering will help you gain information and find new pathways to success. Attack the wall with all your fervor. Finally, celebrate your success! It is a grand experience.


Copyright 2000 International Leadership Associates