Twelve ‘circuit breakers’ that could be blocking your progress
In this episode of “Moment of Clarity” we bring you a collaborative piece written by our partner Brad Deutser, co-founder of the Bermuda Clarity Institute, and founder and chief executive at Deutser in Houston; plus the creator of Circuit Breakers, an interactive and powerful exercise we use in our Learning Lab with almost all of our clients.
In business, circuit breakers interrupt the flow of energy and break our connection with our employees, our company and ourselves. These “breaks” can result in misguided or conflicting directions. At Clarity, we produce the optimal environment with energy calibrated at the right frequency directed to the right places, which facilitates a constant and vibrant flow.
This flow is what drives the performance of the leader and subsequently the organisation. Twenty years of research and application has identified the following 12 universal circuit breakers:
This great “gotcha” that grabs our gut and shows up at the worst times is non-discriminatory in that its presence can be felt in winning or losing. Even success brings fear about what will change and move us out of our well-rutted comfort. Fear shows up when we finally get that promotion we have been working so hard for, but immediately start to worry about whether we can actually do the job. Fear can also show up as the impostor syndrome. The list goes on and on.
This mix of feelings creates misguided direction or no direction as the pull towards multiple options or contradictory ideas fries the energy pathways. Ambivalence leaves us in a perpetual search for something. In our frazzled energy, we agitate smooth operations by offering conflicting messages or show a lack of decision making. We sometimes leave room to cover mistakes, leaving the door ajar to abandon ship.
It does not matter whether the bog is mental, organisational, physical, or anything else that can become disordered, clutter impedes a direct path. Sometimes, you cannot find the path or create one as energy and resources are expended that could be appropriated elsewhere instead of being used merely “figuring it out”.
Labelling soothes by giving form to something and reassures us that we then know what to do with it or about it. Labelling makes it more real to us. Where labelling becomes a circuit breaker is we label something as known, when in fact it is not – and rather only a hypothesis or a limiting belief.
Doubt starves the life flow of creativity and expansion. Trust and belief can lift you through tough times and circumstances when you are tested. Doubt operates as a heavy, dense energy that keeps you tethered to old ways and old thinking.
In clarity, we develop the practice of strategic patience in an environment in which business practices often favour short-term gains over long-term sustainability. Strategic patience occurs when you are thoughtful, purposeful, intentional, and favour actions that make an impact. Strategic patience also teaches you to trust, while strategically harvesting resources ready for a better time, opportunity, or the right team member who can generate a greater outcome. Impatience creates a frenetic energy that results in unnecessary or ill-advised risk.
Boredom in the lack of inspiration or higher thought and is perhaps one of the deadliest circuit breakers. It is insidious. It lazily reaches for the low-hanging fruit. It performs at a level at which it is just good enough not to be noticed or called out and therefore, can continue to underperform. In any industry in which safety is important, it can result in accidents, injuries, or death – of a business, a bottom line or a life.
Power struggles are characterized by a clash of energy directed at people rather than goals or dreams. Conflicting values can certainly be the spark that ignites a power struggle, but they are more often about claiming resources and perceived territory than they are about truly hashing out the differences in values. Conflict can also grow out of greed or a departure that takes you too far from your root and breaks your connection to what nourishes.
Leaders thrive on confidence. We absolutely need to be able to make decisions, believe in ourselves and others, and to discern the best options for our companies. Where this attribute becomes a circuit breaker is when confidence becomes arrogance, hubris, self-absorption, peacocking, and a baseless feeling of invincibility. Overconfidence undermines leadership and diminishes engagement and productivity.
10. Physical depletion
Leaders must deal with the real consequences of the daily mental and physical assaults that they are so uniquely expected to address. Leaders are constantly tapped to bridge worlds and problems. They are in the same moment surviving and setting up future success and often ignore the personal toll it takes on them. It is like the proverbial creative high. That high continues to build to a climax before the inevitable crash. It is simply not sustainable, which leaders will all admit, but few proactively address.
We live in a world in which inference is ever-present. Conversations are short. Attention spans are even shorter. We are talked to or talked around, rather than engaging in meaningful dialogue. Today’s world prizes headlines and bite-sized phrases rather than the full narrative that more aptly provides colour, context and definition. We often fill in the blanks left by others, often, when there are no blanks to fill.
It is a daily exercise to try to balance the various riches, deficits, and constraints with which we are faced. The balancing act in itself is not a circuit breaker – rather, it becomes one when the exercise consumes our thinking, redirects our thoughts, and stops our flow of positive energy. Time is one of the many resources we must constantly be aware of as we evaluate our healthy energy pathways.
The importance of recognising circuit breakers
Leaders who strive to be in clarity understand the forces that break the necessary and natural flow of energy for them and their organisations. They recognise its impact on them and the people they lead. They also understand its direct connection to culture, which plays a defining role in driving performance and is the first entry point to being in clarity.
• Visit our Bermuda Clarity Institute in person to come and participate in our Circuit Breakers exercise. You can learn about upcoming workshops and our research here. Excerpted from Leading Clarity: The Breakthrough Strategy to Unleash PEOPLE, PROFIT and PERFORMANCE (Wiley, April 3, 2018)