Nearly every growing company faces a phenomenon -- at multiple points in its growth trajectory -- where the leadership team feels stuck, growth stalls or halts, and everything starts to feel complex. The strategies of the past that served them so well are no longer working. Revenue has plateaued and frustration is creeping into the organization.
This experience is called "hitting the ceiling," and it's perfectly normal though understandably nerve- wracking the first time a leadership team encounters it.
A study in the 60s about the evolution and revolution of business confirms that few companies grow in a straight line -- meaning their revenue trend line has periodic bumps in the road. Additionally, most successful companies have faced periods of evolution followed by periods of revolution. Evolution occurs when your strategies are working for you and consistently generating year-over-year growth. Revolution occurs when your growth strategies no longer work in the larger company that you've created, causing your company to hit the ceiling. The way through this is to break the model, reboot and adapt your approach for your new reality.
Only about half of companies make it successfully through the ceiling -- often because they don't have the constitution for the changes that must be made to navigate through it.
Gino Wickman in his book "Traction" draws parallels between this business trend and how the body experiences growing pains. When you're young, and your body is experiencing a growth spurt, you feel growing pains. Fortunately, the neurons in your brain know how to break through. It's not quite so easy for leadership teams, however, because we are naturally wired to avoid change. Making the conscious choice to embrace change is a difficult journey for most.
Wickman outlines five leadership abilities that must be mastered to break through the ceiling successfully every time you hit it. It begins with the ability to simplify complex processes, messages, structure and communication -- including how you communicate your company vision. You must also master the ability to delegate responsibilities based on your team's unique abilities. Equally important is the ability to predict results and obstacles -- both short-term and long-term. You must also learn to document and simplify the 20 percent of your core processes that drive 80 percent of your results to create vital efficiencies. Lastly, you must structure the company to allow for growth, ideally leveraging accountability charts which give you a disciplined approach to putting the right people in the right seats.
Mastering these leadership abilities does not happen overnight. It's a long process that requires focus and commitment. Once these tools become second nature, though, your growth is virtually limitless.
For more about creating an operating system that supports sustainable growth, check out Traction by Gino Wickman.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.