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Removing the limiting factors that stop you from achieving

Abstract image of a rocket overcoming its limiting factors and taking off (Image Dreamstime)
Image: Dreamstime
Business consultant and leadership coach Leo Aspden asks construction professionals what limiting factors stop them from achieving their goals and examines how to remove those barriers.

What are the key factors that are preventing you or your team from achieving your goals? It isn’t surprising that we may apportion the blame on other external circumstances outside of our influence: the struggling economy, a downturn in the sector, shortage of team skills or lack of training and investment.

However, the greatest impact and limiting factors might be closer to home than we think.

The reality is that in many cases as individuals and as teams we make assumptions based on what has happened before or how we see ourselves and the world around us. In her book Time to Think, author and speaker Nancy Kline describes the use of ‘Incisive Questions’. Kline suggests: “Incisive Questions remove limiting assumptions, freeing the mind to think afresh.”

Limiting assumptions

The truth about limiting assumptions is that they are just that: they are assumptions that you or your team have made. However, they may appear very real, and their effect can be devastating. They can cause paralysis, fear, and lack of seeing a way forward, unless addressed in the correct way.

Examples of typical assumptions may include some of the following:

  • They might not agree with me
  • I might not be successful
  • My presentation/meeting might not go well
  • It will be difficult
  • They might think I am not confident enough
Incisive questions to free your thinking

Often these assumptions may be well hidden and firmly embedded in our thinking, or as Kline puts it, they are “bedrock assumptions”. The act of simply telling someone that this isn’t true, and they are assuming it to be the case is not enough. To remove the blockage, what is required is the power of Incisive Questions, providing the link to identifying the assumption in the first place, and then replacing that assumption with a freeing one.

So, let’s say you have a colleague who is avoiding preparing for a meeting with client ABC to negotiate terms for a new project. You might ask: “What might you be assuming that is stopping you from preparing for the meeting with client ABC?” The colleague explains that they are worried that they might not be successful, and that the client might already be considering alternatives. The key here is good listening and using the power of attention to accurately identify where and when assumptions are in place. 

Having identified the assumption, the next stage is to replace it with a freeing one. So, in our example: taking the freeing assumption and building this into the body of a question this could become: “If you knew that you are successful (freeing assumption), how would you prepare for the meeting with client ABC (the goal)?”

The use of Incisive Questions is a powerful way to remove the blockages and limiting beliefs which hold us and our teams back from achieving our goals.

Limiting beliefs

Sometimes, even more of an obstacle stopping us from achieving our goals are the stories that we tell ourselves. These too can be deeply ingrained ways of viewing the world that we may have held since childhood.

Examples of limiting beliefs could include:

  • To succeed you need to be firm and tough
  • Leaders don’t show emotions
  • I am not good enough
  • I am not good at public speaking
Challenging your beliefs

Here are a few tips to challenge your limiting beliefs:

  1. Explore what effect the belief has had on your life or your work. Is it helpful?
  2. Provide evidence to the contrary. Look for examples of where the results prove the opposite of your limiting beliefs.
  3. Modify the belief or adjust or re-frame it to better serve you.
  4. Talk to someone, like a coach or someone you trust about your limiting beliefs.

For many of us, the greatest challenge in addressing the limiting factors that stop us from achieving is recognising them in the first place. Raising our self-awareness is a crucial skill and part of the emotional intelligence required by leaders and managers. The construction sector has often been portrayed as a sector that requires a sense of toughness to be successful. Is this a limiting assumption or belief that is holding the sector back from achieving more through those at its core?

Leo Aspden is a high-growth business consultant and leadership coach with more than 30 years’ experience of working with businesses in the construction sector in coaching, leadership development, business strategy and marketing.

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