Visionaries are not perfect ascended beings. They make mistakes, they take the wrong path, they struggle with obstacles—in other words, they are human. Being conscious of our own visionary voices, and the visionary potential in those we lead, also requires being conscious of our own stumbling blocks, particularly those that come from within.
Being an accomplished person often goes hand in hand with striving for perfection, and this is where a key difference between success and meaningful sustained success arises. Often in our perfectionism, we beat ourselves up for our mistakes, and in doing so, we make learning from them difficult. We make them so painful for ourselves that we push them out of our minds rather than accepting them as part of the path toward our vision and figuring out how to use our strengths to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
Perfectionism can indeed lead to success, but it rarely leads to satisfaction or sustained meaningful success—not because our own imperfections get in the way but because our reaction to those imperfections hold us back from reaching new levels of mastery and fulfillment—from allowing our visionary voice to be the one that guides us, rather than being led by the myriad negative voices that also reside within—particularly the inner perfectionist, pusher, and patriarch.
The same is true in the people we lead and mentor—in our companies, our communities, our social and professional networks, our families. As you awaken your own visionary voice and mentor this awakening in others, keep your eyes and ears open for these common obstacles.
Overwhelming, unending stress. This is even more prominent in today’s economy as fear throws our work/life rhythm completely out of whack, making it difficult for us to see the big picture of the natural flow in our lives. Not only are we, and the people we lead, working hard to live up to our own high standards, we are working even harder to prove ourselves invaluable to our organizations or to keep our businesses afloat. But the irony is, the harder we push ourselves, without the counterbalance of downtime, the more likely we are to burn out, which can lead to our worst fears coming true.
Finding ways to balance our lives and to relieve stress are just as crucial as any urgent deadline we face. We not only need to do this for ourselves, we need to make this a priority—even a requirement—built into the systems we manage for the people we lead.
Financial blind spots. Do you control your money, or does it control you? This can be a particular problem among the people we lead, who may not have the financial knowledge and skills to manage their money in ways that contribute to sustained security and success. When we feel financially insecure, we are more likely to fall into the stress cycle mentioned above, working harder and harder to stay afloat. The problem is compounded if we are not earning money by doing what we love. Many don’t believe this is even possible, or they see it as a vague future goal after they earn enough money to feel secure—but without financial savvy, they may never reach this goal.
Financial education and expert guidance are essential starting points for us and for our team members and those we mentor. Without the ability to create our own financial security, we will never be ready to take the necessary risks to do what we love and love what we do, to create money-making futures that matter.
Ineffective communication skills. Visionaries are by definition collaborators, and the businesses that achieve sustained meaningful success rely on the collaborative model. Yet often the brightest stars among us are the ones who have the most difficulty communicating in their personal and professional lives. Without effective communication, relationships and teams remain out of sync, often stuck revisiting the same problems over and over because they don’t communicate effectively to define the problem in the first place, then focus on a meaningful, lasting solution. Even more important in the grand scheme of things, ineffective communication about the practical keeps us from ever elevating the conversation to deeper issues of meaning and significance, conversations that are essential if we are to tune in to our inner visionaries and make a difference in our world.
Communication is a skill that we all can learn and improve. As leaders, the responsibility is ours to seek out ways to improve our communication skills so that we can teach by demonstrating them in our professional and personal interactions.
I am highlighting only three here, but of course, there are others, which I will address in future posts. The point is that we do not have to—or want to—face these challenges alone, but we do need to face them with our eyes wide open. Part of being a visionary is telling the brutal truth, to ourselves and to others, but another part is using that vision to find innovative solutions to help ourselves and each other to soar past the ways we limit our own potential to be not just good but great.
What obstacles do you and the people you lead and mentor encounter repeatedly? What concrete steps can you take today to move past them?