Why You Need To Stretch Yourself As A Leader

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I’m currently learning a new piece on the piano (Bumble Boogie by Jack Fina). It’s a challenge for me because, 1) it requires a fair amount of technique, 2) it’s fast, and 3) I’m not very good at the piano.

Don’t get me wrong—I’ll get it down! After a month and a half of working on it, I’m actually pretty close to performance level. But at this point, it’s still slightly beyond my current abilities.

That’s a phrase I want you to keep in mind as we head into a new year (or, frankly, at any time in your professional and/or personal development). Let me put it in question form:

What are you working on now that is slightly beyond your current abilities?

What are you working on now that is slightly beyond your current abilities? @billstainton #leadership #personalgrowth #professionalgrowth Click To Tweet

Let’s step back to my piano for a moment. I have a repertoire of pieces that I can play fairly well. I’ve been playing them for years, and they no longer offer any serious challenges to me. If someone asks me to play the piano (hey, it could happen!), it’s to one of these pieces that I’ll turn.

Now, I could stick with these pieces—and only these pieces—for the rest of my musical life. They’re fun to play, people seem to enjoy them (at least to my face), and I’m good at them.

But I wouldn’t get any better. I’d stop growing.

Back to your life, and the question at hand: What are you working on now that is slightly beyond your current abilities?

Because if you’re not actively working on something (or some things) that is slightly beyond your current abilities, you’re not getting better. You’re not growing. And while the consequences of me not stretching myself on the piano may not be a big deal, the consequences of you not stretching yourself professionally could be life-changing—and not in a good way!

Why? Because even if you’re not improving, you can be sure your competition is. And when I say “competition,” I’m talking about competition for your industry, competition for your company…and maybe even competition for your job.

You may not be actively improving…but your competition is! @billstainton #leadership #continuousimprovement Click To Tweet

You and I both know leaders who stopped growing years ago. They achieved their title, and their salary, and have been coasting ever since. They’re doing the same thing every day, every week, every month, every year. And they’re doing it quite competently—perhaps even expertly. They’re doing the leadership version of playing the same repertoire of songs on the piano, over and over again.

They’re treading water quite proficiently…but they’re not moving forward.

My challenge to you this year is to set some challenges for yourself. Take on some projects—both personally and professionally—that challenge you. That stretch you. That make you grow.

So, once again: What are you working on now that is slightly beyond your current abilities?


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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