• Kevin S. Smith

The Disease that Kills Productivity and Growth

In our search for greater productivity, like in most situations, it is always best to look back to the basics. As leaders and entrepreneurs we often seek solutions in every corner of technology and innovation to gain a productivity edge. We look for new gadgets, calendars, software, books, planners and whatever else the person sitting next to us on the plane might suggest. Of course these can all great tools, but they are just that tools. None of them actually mend the root cause of the production gap. The cause for lack of movement can be found in the basics principle that has been around since the beginning of time.

Even as we here at Leaderstone were preparing for the next round of the Ultimate Impact Mentoring Program, I twas telling all the participants on the launch call about how important it was that there be more than just the productivity tools provided - because productivity tools alone can't close the productivity gap. In fact, we added an entire coaching program to address this root cause of low productivity and growth.

This production gap is simply the gap between what we know we should be doing and what we actually do.  Whether it is getting the little things done on a daily basis, or taking steps to achieve your life's dream; most of us know there are things we could be doing but don't - we get stuck. And the reason we get stuck in the gap is as basic as the rules that govern the universe. The root cause of the productivity gap is more often than not - fear. It is the fear of losing whatever it is we are attached to. And it is the disease ("dis-ease") fear produces that keeps us from doing what we know at some level - must be done.

We often don't recognize it as fear

The incredible thing about looking at the productivity gap is that we often don't even recognize it is fear that is holding us back.  Fear is cunning. It's deceptive. In his book, As a Man Thinketh, James Allen writes:

"Having conceived of his purpose, a man should mentally mark out a straight pathway to its achievement, looking neither to the right nor the left. Doubts and fears should be rigorously excluded; they are disintegrating elements, which break up the straight line of effort, rendering it crooked, ineffectual, useless. Thoughts of doubt and fear never accomplished anything, and never can. They always lead to failure. Purpose, energy, power to do, and all strong thoughts cease when doubt and fear creep in. "

So often fear is disguised as distraction, a lapse of focus or a "temporary delay". But these too are symptoms, not causes. We tell ourselves that instead of marking out a path and moving forward - we should just wait a while, give it some more thought, or maybe even convince ourselves that we don't even really want it anymore.  Or perhaps we fool ourselves into thinking there are not enough hours in the day. In actuality it is usually our fear of losing something - having to release whatever attachment we have grown so accustomed to.

The things we fear are usually external and irrelevant

Have you ever thought about what you would do with your career or explore with your business if you knew nobody could see if you fell short of your goal? As a coach, I see this all the time. The most common source of fear, once we dig deep and apply some introspect - is the fear of what others might think!

There are a lot of good leaders in organizations that never take the next step out of fear of what their current peers might think. There are people who desire to start a business but never move forward because they fear they will look like a failure to their family or friends if the business doesn't work. And there are countess folks in between who will never say what they really want out loud because as long as they keep what they really want buried inside, nobody will ever see they never accomplished their dreams. 

Imagine the power that would be unleashed in this world if we all quit worrying about what others think and just took a step forward!

We often don't have faith in ourselves, which opens the way for fear

I have often wondered why some people are just content in mediocrity. They want more freedom, time with friends and family, start a business, work less, work more, start a career - but never gain productivity. Never make it happen. And the more I study, read and observe I realize that it too boils down to fear. Don't get me wrong, these folks are not walking around in terror all day, but the symptom is the same - paralysis. 

Fear masks potential. And If we don't see the potential, then the desire simply fades away. This is because the "will to do" springs from the belief that we "can do".  Therefore if we don't see that we have the potential to accomplish something - we will not really have the true desire to do it - it's becomes nothing more than a fleeting thought. This is because faith has an equal opposite - and that opposite is fear. When we don't have faith we can do something, it is because we have fear that we can't. Fear fills the void and we responds accordingly - by retreating to safety and comfort.

Abraham Maslow said

"in any given moment, you will either step forward into growth, or backward into safety."

So the key for anyone who is looking to move toward their potential is simple - not easy, but simple. The key is to recognize when fear is driving the bus - and to move forward with fear. Take a step of any size, but take a step. Quiet the voice in the mind that is trying to step backwards towards safety.  As a leader, recognize the same in others and move them past that voice. That voice is coming from a good place. It is trying to protect us, it is trying to keep us in safety and comfort - but growth does not live there.

Do it afraid. 


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