Dig Below The Surface

Greetings Leaders,

A couple of weeks ago, I had an arborist come out to look at one of my trees. By mid-summer, its leaves were starting to turn brown and fall off, much earlier than normal. The arborist dug down below the surface and found what is called a girdling root. That is a root which, rather than expanding out into the yard, wraps around the tree. Over time, it can do great damage, perhaps even killing the tree. Although my focus was on the tree, an important leadership lesson popped into my head. When things are off a bit, we sometimes have to scratch below the surface for the cause.

When people receive feedback indicating they do not demonstrate a certain leadership behavior frequently enough, they usually stay above the surface in rationalizing it. They may think something like, “OK I get it. I know that I should encourage others more or provide more clarity about where we are headed, and I will soon start working on doing better.” The good news is that they have accepted the feedback. The not so good news is that too often they end up doing nothing.

Making progress usually requires you to dig down a bit. You must reflect on and answer a couple of key questions, such as:

  • What is the true importance to me of demonstrating the behavior more frequently?
  • What have I attempted to do that is obviously not hitting the mark with others?
  • What is keeping me from demonstrating a better version of this identified behavior?

Your answers might involve admitting to yourself what you fear in doing it, what is really hard about it for you, or what you already know is holding you back. You may secretly discover that you are struggling to believe that you can actually do better.

These kinds of questions and internal conversations are below the surface. You may have a “misguided root” somewhere that is depriving you of being your best. Are your willing enough – or perhaps more accurately courageous enough to try and find it.

Remember that as a leader, you must model this desire to do some inner digging. What good will it do to coach others to dig deep on their own growth opportunities, when they see you won’t do the same for yourself.

Good luck and may you uncover some valuable insights as you dig below the surface.

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