September 2012

As a reader of my blog, you’ve probably noticed that growth is something I talk about almost all the time. That’s because I believe intentional personal growth is the key to reaching your potential. And no one grows to become a better leader or entrepreneur by accident. Everything worthwhile is uphill. I love nothing more than to help people like you travel up that hill to become all that you can be.

To make it up the growth slope, we need to figure out the best route and make steady progress on the way up. That often means removing obstacles that are in our way. And today I want to talk about three huge obstacles that might be found on the path to your potential. Leaving them there will slow or even stop your growth progress. Removing them can free you to run toward your growth goals.

What kind of obstacles are these? They have to do with what you believe. I want you to think about this: While it’s true that belief alone rarely gets you where you want to go, belief usually does determine whether you even try to get there. And again and again, I’ve seen the following three negative beliefs stop smart people in their tracks and limit their growth.

As you read these descriptions, ask yourself if you hold any of these beliefs. If you do, you’re being limited by them. When you replace them with positive beliefs and assumptions, you’ll remove limitations and free yourself to grow.

1. Scarcity

How do you view options? Resources? Opportunities? A person with a scarcity mindset believes that those things are limited. That we’re all competing for a finite number of resources or options. As my friend Kevin Myers put it, they see the world as a pie with only a certain number of slices, and everybody is competing to get some.

For some people, this belief motivates them to be their best in order to grab their fair share of the pie. But for many, a belief in scarcity demotivates them, because they believe the odds of winning one of only a few slices simply aren’t in their favor.

2. Insecurity

If scarcity says the world doesn’t have enough, insecurity says I’m not enough. Insecurity is a minimizing of one’s self – it’s seeing your abilities, talents, and strengths as deficient in some way. When you believe you’re not good or talented enough, that’s an obstacle to growth. After all, why pursue any goal if you don’t think you’re capable of reaching it? Insecure people may recognize chances to advance and grow, but they don’t believe in their ability to seize those opportunities.

3. Powerlessness

A belief in powerlessness comes out of the assumption that we have no ability to affect our world. Powerlessness often begins with a wound – perhaps from someone in authority ignoring or dismissing your voice – but it hardens over time into a mentality that cannot recognize personal responsibility for anything that happens in life.

For the powerless person, there’s always someone else who should have acted, someone else who should take the blame. This passive way of seeing the world can lead to a victim mentality. If someone else is always in control, then the victim is always at the mercy of those in charge. People who feel powerless are less likely to pursue growth because they believe their growth ultimately won’t matter - that their skills will never be recognized by the people who hold all of the power.



The good news is you don’t have to live with negative beliefs. In fact, just by recognizing them within yourself, you are in position to take the first step of growth. And that is to choose to believe differently. This is something you can right now, today. Your beliefs are your choice. So consider these strategies:

If you struggle with a belief in scarcity, choose instead to practice abundance thinking. Instead of seeing only limited options or resources, choose to believe that they are abundant. In other words, if you see others grabbing all the pieces of the pie, you don’t need to panic – just bake another pie! Believers in abundance choose to focus on possibilities, and this enables them to pursue them.

If you struggle with insecurity, practice confident thinking. Choose to believe that you do have something to offer. Every life is unique; you are the only person on earth who brings your skills, talents, and experiences to the table. That’s worth something! Believing in your abilities empowers you to use them – to succeed and to grow.

If you struggle with a feeling of powerlessness, embrace responsibility. That means owning what you can do and releasing what you can’t. No one can control everything, but with the things you can control, take full responsibility. Or, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, do the best you can with what you have, where you are.


Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” The difference between the life you have and the life you want is often just a matter of how you think and what you believe. If you confront and change your beliefs, you’ll clear the way on your uphill journey of growth. 

I love to talk about personal growth. It’s one of my passions. I have seen firsthand how effectively a life committed to continual personal growth produces results beyond our wildest imaginings. Because I’ve seen the power of growth, I’m always fired up to share the principles and practices that will help people make it a habit. That’s the “how to” of growth. But before anyone is ready to learn the “how” of growth, they need to embrace the “why.” That’s what I want to discuss today.

There are several great reasons to pursue growth. It can help us achieve our career goals. Over time, it creates momentum, which encourages more growth. And an emphasis on growing – rather than “arriving” – makes it easier to learn from failure. But there is one key reason to pursue growth that I want to discuss today. This outcome has the most power to change our lives in every way.

I encourage people to pursue a lifetime of growth not just because it will make them better, or open new doors. I encourage people to grow because growth increases hope.

A Growth Mindset Is the Seed of Hope

Think about it: Growth in the natural world is all about looking forward. A sapling becomes a mighty oak by growing slowly over time. An infant grows into a child, who eventually becomes an adult. Hope is the same way. It looks forward. When we have hope, we can imagine a better future. And hope isn’t just wishing for things that might be. It’s the firm belief in things that will be. It’s looking past your present circumstances with the belief that you have a future.

Planting the seed of growth is not complicated. It’s as simple as a change in mindset. When we decide to believe that growth is possible, and commit to pursuing it, hope begins to rise. The change in focus is only the first step, but it can be the beginning of a long and rewarding journey.  

A Growth Habit Strengthens Hope

Choosing to grow is important. But that decision is not enough to create change on its own. Next, we need to acknowledge that growth is a gradual process – that in fact, it happens one day at a time. And then we need to establish the habit of growing on a consistent basis.

When you practice the discipline of growing a little every day, you are doing your part to strengthen the hope inside of you. With each small step taken every day, you make progress toward improving yourself and your world. It’s like author Garrison Keillor once said, “There’s only so much you can do, but you must do that much – even if you don’t know how much that is.” When you grow, you are putting your future into motion. And with every step toward the future, hope is reinforced and strengthened.

Growth Over Time Realizes Hope

Growth over time helps us act our way into hope. When we take small steps of growth every day, over time, we see progress. And then our hope has the most potential to be realized. If you string together enough days of consistent growth, you begin to change as a person. You become better, stronger, more skilled, or all of the above. And when you change yourself, you can change your circumstances. This begins a cycle of growth strengthening hope, leading to more growth, resulting in even more hope.


When you make growth a priority and pursue it in small, intentional ways every single day, you will experience gradual, consistent growth. And that will strengthen your hope for the future. Growth is a difference-maker. And it can make a world of difference to you today.

I bet you’ve heard this before: In any organization, people are the most valuable asset. And as a leader, you probably understand that it’s true. No matter how you measure it, people offer the highest return on investment over the longest time. When you take care of your people and treat them well, they have the potential to create incredible success for the organization.

However, we sometimes interpret this concept in an ineffective way. “Taking care of” people is understood by some leaders as “always being ‘nice’ and never offering any correction.” And that belief can cause real problems. Why? Because everyone needs correction sometimes. People aren’t perfect, so they’re going to make mistakes. Communication isn’t foolproof, so sometimes followers misunderstand what is being requested. And a need for a course correction arises.

I can hear the groans from here. Because most of us don’t like this type of interaction. Correction equals confrontation, and many people resist that as much as possible. Instead, they avoid bringing up problems, hoping things will correct themselves. That might work if your team member is just having a bad day. But when a person has a string of bad days, you have to speak up. Otherwise the days may become weeks or months!

So is there any good way to confront or correct a team member? I believe there is. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, or always goes the way we want it to. But there are some guidelines we can follow to create the best conditions for a positive outcome.

The Platinum Rule

Before I get into specific guidelines, I want to set the stage for them. Embracing these two ideas will give you the right mindset before the conversation even starts. I call the first one The Platinum Rule. You probably know the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. And it’s a great rule that has worked for centuries. But how some of us interpret it can be flawed – because how I want to be treated may not be the same as the treatment that the other person prefers. That’s why I’ve adopted what I call the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they would want to be treated. That emphasizes the importance of setting aside your personal preferences and thinking through your strategy with the other person in mind.

Seeing Confrontation as Clarification

I also want to encourage you to change how you define the conversation you need to have. Instead of seeing your mission as confronting an individual, think of it as clarifying the team’s needs. This doesn’t mean coddling the person, or minimizing the issue at hand. But a positive perspective on the conversation will make the whole task less daunting for you. And using words of clarification can make it feel like less of a personal attack to the person being corrected.

The Ten Commandments of Confrontation

So, keeping in mind the overall goals of clarifying, and treating the person the way they would want to be treated, here are my Ten Commandments of Confrontation:

  1. Thou shalt confront others in private.
  2. Thou shalt confront as soon as possible and not look for “a better time.”
  3. Thou shalt stick to the issue at hand.
  4. Thou shalt make thy point and not repeat it.
  5. Thou shalt deal only with actions that can be changed.
  6. Thou shalt avoid sarcasm (especially in an email or text).
  7. Thou shalt avoid words like always and never because they are rarely accurate.
  8. Thou shalt ask questions and offer suggestions.
  9. Thou shalt not apologize for the confrontation.
  10. Thou shalt remember to highlight the person’s positive contributions.

One of my deepest beliefs is that people want to contribute to something greater than themselves. And most team members want to succeed at what they do. That means that if correction is handled with care, most people will be fairly open to change and improvement. That’s not to say everyone will respond that way, but you will make it easier for them to do so when you follow the above guidelines.

The final truth to remember is that you can only control your part of the conversation. The other person’s response is entirely up to them. But when you are honest and confront with care in a timely manner, you will create a culture where people can learn from their mistakes, grow, and improve. And that is a team culture that most of us would like to be a part of.

But don’t let me have the last word – what would be in your Ten Commandments of Confrontation? What would you add to or subtract from my list? How have you successfully dealt with confrontation on your teams? Share your thoughts in the comments below.