No matter how hard I work, I can’t be a world mathematics champion, a 100m Olympic sprint champion, nor would I be able to dance with Bolshoi Ballet. I’d suggest I’m not clever enough to be a neurosurgeon either, however, you’ll not hear me complaining. The reality is, not everything is achievable and we will always run into barriers that are insurmountable based on our natural talents.
My year 10 teacher at Blacktown Patrician Brothers, was a wonderful and hard as nails man by the name of Mr Coitus. He once said to me, “there is always someone tougher, smarter, faster and stronger than you are, it’s just a matter of time”. It’s something that has always stuck with me and I know he didn’t say it to be negative, rather so that we stayed grounded and focused.
Telling our kids, loved ones, the younger generation, colleagues at work, or whoever it may be that they can do anything is wrong. I don’t think this is dream stealing either. Conversely, we all need some tough truths to burst that bubble, so we can build our true purpose.
I know it’s not what you will hear from most consultants, motivational speakers, life coaches or even your parents. Although it may not be the overall determinant of success, the truth is that skill and talent will beat effort and teamwork in most instances. I believe that the adage of ‘you can excel anything that you put your mind to’ is rubbish. There will be things that we simply will not be good enough at, even if we may want it more than anything. The reality of this may suck, however, it’s important to be honest if we are going to be successful.
Sometimes, as a leader, you must help others move on, even if they have unquestionable character. The bottom line is, that if they’re not capable of delivering the results you require despite trying incredibly hard, being a great team player and even the nicest person you’ve ever met, it’s time to do something about it.
One of the toughest things I’ve had to do as a leader in sport, was to tell a young man of wonderful character and incredible levels of effort and dedication, that he just wasn’t going to make it to the top grade. I had to break it to him that his lifelong endeavor to that point was going to come up short. Although the conversation was very challenging, one of the most important things I explained to him was that the lessons he had learnt and disciplines he had gained from that elite sports environment were attributes that would be hugely successful in another field.
As hard as it was, in a situation like this, it would have been an injustice not to have this discussion. Saying that, it requires careful thought, immense understanding and empathy. We need to remember that these individuals will have worked their butt off and held this goal dear to them for extended periods of time. Coming to terms with the reality that their dream is unobtainable and that no amount of persistence will allow the last few steps for breakthrough is crushing.
As a leader, not only is having this conversation the right thing to do, it is our responsibility. It helps people to change direction and create new avenues of excellence and opportunity. Furthermore, it shows them a way forward and a route to real success elsewhere.
Being a leader sometimes means helping others move past limitations and onto a new path. The real skill as a leader is to frame it so that it is not viewed as giving up or retreating, in fact, it is being smart and resourceful in the use of personal attributes and talents.
As a leader, we must have the courage to burst that bubble.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you would like further support including some coaching on how to have these tough conversations.