Obstacles are inevitable. In fact, it is only through the obstacles of life that we become who we were designed to be. There is an old Zen Parable that states, “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”
Obstacles can often be the best thing that can happen to a leader or even to an organization. Obstacles demand growth and development in order to overcome and move forward.
As a leader it’s important to overcome obstacles. Obstacles are dangerous because they have the potential to derail you. As a leader, you must be shrewd to learn how obstacles can propel you forward and not get stuck or fall back into past patterns and behaviors.
1. Recommit and keep going
A fundamental truth of life is to keep going you must keep going. The key is to take action (the first step) when an obstacle is first presented. Real leaders do not stop on the face of opposition. In fact, when obstacles occur we have to work with all our heart to move past them.
Henry Ford famously said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” Sometimes re-commitment to the task at hand is the most crucial action you can take. There is too little recommitment in today’s marketplace. A leader that calls on their people to recommit to the task is essential for success.
2. Re-examine your plan
Leaders are planners. People need to know their leader has a plan. Grand plans must be examined and re-examined before they are executed effectively. When an obstacle is faced, it is time to work on the business not in the business.
A thoughtful and detailed plan that moves your organization forward is worth every hour spent developing it. When you prepare for potential obstacles, everyone around you becomes empowered. They are confident that whatever obstacles they might face, it can all be overcome.
3. Recall your ‘why’
Obstacles refocus our objectives. To effectively overcome an obstacle it’s important to rediscover your original purpose. The original why of a task or a project can be a great motivator and help you overcome current setbacks.
4. Enlist help
Many people fail to achieve their vision in the presence of obstacles because they have no support system to encourage them to keep going. Accountability and encouragement are two main factors that can strengthen your resolve.
In the midst of obstacles, remain close to your source of strength and support. Some people gain strength from the vision itself. While others look forward to the future benefits or payoff that comes with finishing their race. Meanwhile, some people gain strength from the support of others.
5. Remain committed
Life and business are demanding. This is the most difficult task people often face – remaining steadfast in the pursuit of their goals. The finish line is often the best motivation when it comes to overcoming obstacles in our path.
But commitment is also about mindset. “Once you’re committed to something, your mind becomes like a homing beacon. There are no more choices to be made, just a focus on the target in front of your eyes—smooth sailing.”
Your commitment will also facilitate group commitment. When your team sees your resolve, it increases the resolve of the entire team. As Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest football coach of all time, once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
Obstacles are inevitable
Obstacles are inevitable. However, they are also significant and defining moments to the success of a leader and an organization. German philosopher and theologian Albert Schweitzer once stated, “One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.” He is correct. Leaders are defined by the obstacles they overcome.
Ken Gosnell is the CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience). He serves leaders by helping them to have great experiences that both transform them and their organizations that enable to go further faster. He has worked with hundreds of CEOs and leadership teams to enhance strategic, operational and people accomplishments. He is an author, coach, and strategic partner with CEOs. Ken is the creator and facilitator of the Christian CEO Linkedin Group and creator of the CEO Experience Impact Assessment. He is married to Shonda, and they have four children. Connect with @ken_gosnell on Twitter.