“It’s Me. I’m the Problem.”
February 17, 2023
Critical Insight Group

Said by no business leader, ever. (Well, okay. There was that one guy, but he was the exception.) Yet, it’s often one of the most powerful statements there is in business.

I’ll often ask an audience, “What’s the one thing you would change to improve the performance of your organization?” As you can imagine I get all types of answers, everything from team structure and compensation to policies and procedures. Rarely, do I hear the most powerful answer: “Me. I’d change me to improve the performance of my company.” Yet it is the key to the continued growth and success of your company. The only way to grow an organization, and improve its performance, is to continue to grow and improve the leaders. And it starts with you.

And that’s a good thing. In fact, it’s downright empowering and very good new. Because the only thing we can really control is ourselves (and we’re the only ones that can). So we now have control of the answer. Once we realize it’s our leadership ability (and that of the entire leadership team) that’s holding back our company’s growth and performance, we can do what we need to solve the problem. We can change and grow ourselves (and the entire leadership team).

The better the leaders are in an organization, the better everyone in the organization becomes. When productivity is high, chemistry is good, morale is high, and momentum is strong, then the payoffs increase.

In his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” John Maxwell, the world’s #1 authority on leadership (and fortunately my business partner), discusses the ‘Law of the Lid’ which tells us that we – more specifically our leadership ability – are the ‘lid’ that limits the performance of our team/company. Therefore, if we want to raise the performance of our team, we must raise the lid. Our lid; our leadership lid.

Studies show that the vast majority of the obstacles teams face, are placed there by their leader. Usually unintentionally, but that doesn’t change that fact that they put them there.

What makes it so difficult for most to see, therefore, identify and fix the problem? It’s the double standard that we use when evaluating ourselves vs. others. We consistently evaluate ourselves based upon our intentions, while we evaluate others based upon their behaviors and/or results. (Often because we never ask others what their intentions are.) So we give ourselves credit for intending to do what’s right or best, even though we don’t get the results we should have. And this keeps us blind to the real issue.

The leaders that do the greatest harm to an organization are the ones who think they have arrived. They receive the title or position they desire (or start a company so they start ‘at the top’), then stop growing. They stop getting better as a leader. And they become a permanent lid on the performance of our organization. Making it almost impossible for their teams to succeed at the level of their true potential.

As leaders, we become ‘flea trainers’. Most of us have heard the story that when you put fleas in a jar and place the lid on it, the fleas will jump and hit their heads on the lid. And they do this over and over and over. Sooner or later they adjust their jumps so they stop just short of the lid. (Because even fleas don’t want to endure the pain of banging against the lid, forever.) Just like the fleas, our people stop trying to perform higher than the lid we place on them. It just isn’t worth the pain and frustration. And we’ve capped their performance and success…and by extension the performance and growth of the company.


So decide to change and grow your leadership ability and watch what it does to the performance of your entire organization. To find out how best to do it, in fact how to improve the ability of your entire leadership team, go here.


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