When the most significant breakthroughs occur

I just completed teaching a four-day Strategies Incubator course. I’ve been doing Incubators for more than 16 years and still find them to be the perfect blend of grueling and fulfilling. “Grueling” because the intent of Incubator is to break through the barriers of “status quo” and fear of change – to challenge the limitations of traditional business thinking and behavior. “Fulfilling” because helping others achieve their own breakthroughs to new and extraordinary possibilities is an honor and a privilege that I respect and cherish. It doesn’t matter if you’re the guide or the traveler, achieving breakthroughs takes courage, patience and the determination to not only begin the voyage – but to reach the destinations you set out to achieve.

The most gratifying part of leading an Incubator is to see the light bulbs turning on as people start to shift their thinking and envision the possibilities. The only challenge is to keep the fear of change in proper perspective. As long as the leader can stay committed to the change process, the breakthroughs will come. Employees will rise to the occasion. All breakthroughs are preceded by change.

Use the following insights to guide you to achieving your significant breakthroughs:

  • The trigger: When status quo becomes unacceptable – when the need for innovation and change reaches a fevered pitch – it triggers leaders into action. It can simply be that point where “enough is enough.” The key is for leaders to recognize the triggers that initiate the quest for breakthroughs. Ignore the triggers, and the business and everyone associated with it remain stuck in a state of mediocrity – or something worse.
  • The destination: Once the breakthrough trigger is fired, leaders need to decide on a destination. It’s like sticking a pin on a globe that communicates to everyone, “This is where we are going.” The destination needs to be BIG. It needs to pull you and every member of your team toward it. It must make you and your business stretch because significant breakthroughs just don’t exist at the low rungs of the ladder.
  • The critical first 15 percent: Once your destination is identified, it is that initial 15 percent of energy, creativity and crafting your plan that will get you 85 percent of the results. That first 15 percent requires tremendous effort and concentration because it establishes the strategy to reach that destination. Consider the first 15 percent all the prep work necessary to begin a voyage. If you just give it five percent – you’ll be starting your voyage unprepared and put everyone at risk.
  • Your unique path: Breakthroughs are one-of-a-kind. Your breakthrough is going to be special and unique to you and your business. You will experiment. You will have successes and gain ground. You will have failures and lose ground. There is no map for you to follow because breakthroughs reside on the other side of the unknown. If you keep waiting for someone to hand you a map, nothing will change.
  • Starts and stops versus driving forward and regrouping: Driving forward and taking time to regroup is essential to achieving breakthroughs. Consider regrouping a rest stop where you catch your breath, assess what lies ahead and replenish your fuel before pressing forward. It’s the unplanned starts and stops that can wear you down and jeopardize achieving breakthroughs. You stop under pressure, self-doubt and fear. Getting started again means you must now re-convince yourself that you can do it. And while you’re trying to convince yourself to get back in the game, your team already interprets the stop as giving up – another broken promise.
  • Beware of straight roads: The road to a breakthrough is full of twists and turns. Some of it may be straight and paved while other parts are simply dirt trails. The danger of being on a straight road for extended periods is that you get comfortable and put your guard down. Consider every straight road as nothing more than opportunity to gain ground while being vigilant to potential hazards. You can lose control and crash simply because you’re not paying attention.
  • Savor the wins: Take time to celebrate progress. Little wins are motivating for you and your team. Just get back in the game quickly.
  • Accept the lessons: Learn from your mistakes because there will be mistakes. Lessons make you better and build character. Lessons keep you humble. A lesson is just another step closer to achieving a breakthrough. Never beat yourself up for making a mistake – unless you failed to apply your lessons.
  • Don’t wait too long to chase your next breakthrough: Congratulations. You achieved a breakthrough. But like any breakthrough, it eventually becomes status quo. When you’re savoring and reaping the rewards from your breakthrough, keep watching for the next trigger to initiate your quest for another breakthrough.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click the Comment button above.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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