5 Avoidable Stumbling Blocks to Growth

July 3, 2016

by Brian Zehr

One of the most repeated stories within my family of origin is the day my father stumbled.


It was a dark, cold winter night in Central Indiana and my family was traveling to my cousin’s wedding. We were all packed into the family station wagon… that’s right, the family station wagon. The invention of the minivan was still years away. As we drove through Muncie, Indiana, it became apparent to everyone except my father that we were lost and, consequently, late. Finally, my mother insisted that he stop the car and ask for directions.

He conceded and we stopped at the first place we found, a little neighborhood liquor store. My dad raced into the store and five minutes later burst out into the parking lot at top speed. We could only see the top part of his body as he weaved through parked cars. Then, all of a sudden, he was gone. He hit a patch of ice and dropped like a sack of potatoes. As we wondered where he had gone, he quickly popped back up, his glasses slightly bent, sporting a big rip in his suit pants.

I’ve never seen anything funnier. For the rest of that trip, members of our family would take turns acting like they were falling down. To this day, some 35 years later, the story continues to be told. The day my conservative missionary dad stumbled out of the liquor store.

Sometimes stumbling can be funny, other times not so much.
In our work helping organizations create a multiplying leadership culture, we have seen all different kinds of stumbles. It seems that just when things start to shift for the positive, organizations get tripped up and take a fall.

Organizations stumble when goals are unmet and opportunities to do great things are left by the wayside.

Here are 5 Avoidable Stumbling Blocks to Growth:
  1. Complexity causes organizations to stumble. This is the “bureaucracy issue”. Are there too many levels of decision-making? Is there a level of politics that keeps the mission from being accomplished? Keeping things simple creates engagement and forward movement.
  2. Arrogance does more damage than anything else. Do you consistently stumble because some people need credit or act as if they have the answers to every situation? Nothing kills forward movement more than people who are arrogant. Being teachable allows for firm footing.
  3. Poor planning is a stumbling block for many organizations. Leaders must make decisions based on where they are going, not on where they currently are. Planning must also include attention to detail that incorporates the development of people. Often our planning is only about project management and not people development.
  4. Past success indicators can be a stumbling block for many organizations. Sometimes the fact that “we used to be effective doing this” keeps us from paying attention to disruptive factors in the present. For example, in the church world we see that churches with past success want to relive their history, instead of reinventing their presence in the community. Can we bring the past to the present, for the sake of the future? Or do we stumble trying to relive what we used to have?
  5. Long-term goals are often stumbling blocks. In shifting culture, I have observed that making small, incremental changes with 10 – 15% growth is key. Organizations that want to change everything, right away, end up falling down in their attempts to shift their culture. Short-term gains for long-term impact are key.
I find that it’s good to wrestle with these stumbling blocks, because you never know when you might get lost and end up stumbling around in the dark.So, which of these do you see as stumbling blocks for your organization?

Just ask my dad.

Click here to see the original article at intentionalIMPACT.
Leadership Development