If you knew how to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be, you would’ve already closed it with information, motivation, or perspiration. But some leadership gaps require more than these things, they require adaptation.

In this post  I’ll coach you on how to identify the internal dialogues that are holding you – and most likely your team and organization – back. If you discover that the current gap in your leadership is one that requires adaptation, then you can see yourself as the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

That’s great news because the opportunity depends solely on one variable: you! If you see you are the gap, then you will also see yourself as the bridge that can close that gap. Keep reading for the simple practice I use with coaching clients to identify the ways leaders like you can define and close that gap.

“Our search for meaning brings us home to our own construction of it. We are most fundamentally sense-makers, constructing our own meaning of what’s happening to us at all times.” – Cara Miller MDiv, PhD

Coaching: You are the gap.

Often when a client comes to me it’s because they’re struggling to move from where they are right now to where they want to be.

They often start by identifying outside sources that keep them stuck. As their coach I challenge them – and I’m challenging you now – to take a more introspective look. You are the reason you’re not the leader you need to be.

We all have internal narratives, whether we realize it or not. We all have a story we tell ourselves about the world, our place in it and our ability to grow. We construct our narratives in such a way that nobody would fault us for failing to grow because there is so much against us. It gives us an out.

It’s these internal dialogues – these negative feedback loops fueled by our fears and insecurities – that are truly holding us back.

Practice: What can I try?

Getting to the next level of personal and professional development requires a deep, introspective look at your internal dialogues. This is your story. It helped you make sense of your experiences as a leader up to now. You worked hard to construct it. And you’ll have to work even harder to extend it further for the future. I’ll coach you through the steps below to challenge your own internal narratives.

Step One: Determine who you need to be.

It’s easy to know that who you are as a leader now is not yet who you want to be for what comes next. But have you clearly identified what your next challenges are? Before delving into the deeper work of exploring your negative feedback loops, it’s important to define where you want to go and who you need to be to get there.

Step Two: Identify the false narratives.

Now is the time to ask yourself the tough questions. What are your deep-seated beliefs and fears that are keeping you from achieving at a higher level? What behaviors have you adopted that keep you from this growth? What permissions are you waiting for to become the leader that is needed?

Ask these questions to delve deeper: Why do I feel this way? What am I afraid of? What would happen if I became that leader? What would I lose? What would I gain (and why does that scare me)?

Step Three: Hold a mirror up to your narratives.

Now that you’ve identified your internal dialogues, it’s time to hold a mirror up to them and see them for what they are: false, at worst. Outdated, at best. You may deeply believe what your internal narrative is telling you. It may have brought you this far. But that does not make it true any longer, or useful for going forward.

Objectively and dispassionately look at your leadership, the beliefs that built and sustained it, and most likely, you’ll be unsatisfied. Fantastic! You’re not here to judge. After all, this internal narrative got you where you are now. But it’s too small to get you to your next step. It’s time to acknowledge the limits of these beliefs, and construct a more expansive belief system that includes them, but transcends them as well.

Step Four: See fear for what it is.

Simply identifying the internal dialogues holding you back can go a long way toward moving past them. But it’s important to acknowledge the safety these offered you earlier in your leadership, as well as the sense of fear that defends that hard-won safety as you go about challenging them.

Continue to turn these dialogues over like well-set stones on your leadership path, discovering what built them and what early roots become exposed when you test them. Begin to try leading past these limitations, knowing why they scare you. If you find the fear isn’t warranted, because your new growth and capacity makes expanded leadership possible, bank that as fuel for continued sustainable change and growth.

Developmental Challenge:

What early fears, limiting beliefs, and false narratives are holding you back? How are these affecting your organization and those around you? Not sure how to find that out? Take this month’s coaching challenge: ask your leaders, colleagues, or direct reports what they see, from an outside perspective, as behaviors that are holding you back.

Try asking:

  • What is it like to work with me? For me?
  • How do I slow work down for you? For us? For myself?
  • How do I make work difficult for us?

Resist being defensive, and stay curious about the feedback they offer. This information, if those you ask are generous enough to give it and you are curious enough to inquire about it (rather than build a case against it), will bring you closer to your limiting beliefs, false narratives, and outdated fears. All this will help you construct an expanded leadership practice that makes space for you to be the leader you need to be.

More Resources to Level-Up Your Leadership

It’s time to take the next step in your leadership development. You don’t have to become a graduate student at an elite university to have access to the best learning on growth and development. I’m putting my professor hat back on, but I’m doing it from right here inside Inquiry Partners, opening access to leaders like you: leaders already leading.

Enroll in the new InquiryP University and you’ll have access to in-depth courses to help you:

  • Make better decisions
  • Become more collaborative
  • Act in the moment
  • Give and receive better feedback
  • Have more productive conversations
  • Become a better leader

IPU is preparing to launch later this year and you can be the first to know when the course is live!

Click here to register

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