Day 95: The gap trap…

…is as avoidable as it is predictable.

Here’s what’s predictable. Take a high-performer in any role and look at what sets them apart — their work ethic; their responsibility; their productivity; their ability to pull magic out of a hat to meet a deadline; their propensity to over-achieve; etc.

After their review and promotion, they call home to tell their family the good news. “I’m the boss now!”

Here’s what else is predictable — the very things which got them here is what will become a trap of their own making. Not wanting to let anybody down, the high-performer ratchets up another gear and hits an even higher-bar and fills the gap. Oh sure, it takes more hours and weekends and evenings — “but it’ll be better in six months” they tell themselves. The delusion of the gap trap has set in until the last straw finally leads to a breakdown, often accompanied by the cruel realization they’re all alone.

A lone is the pit of despair. At its root is pride and fear. Ugly to admit.

If you can identify with this person who’s found themselves in a hell of their own making, make this a moment of awakening and take a minute and write. What have I been believing about what’s my responsibility? about their responsibility? about the insanity of doing the same way over and over and expecting different results?

Practicing with a leadership team this year, we’ve taken a hard look at the gap trap and realized it takes humility and courage to avoid it — and it takes each other to help us see our blind spots.

Avoiding it involves recognizing the two bookends of leadership, and embracing two columns of writing. The left column is brought to you by Emerson — “our chief want in life is someone who shall make us do what we can”. As I consider my role as a leader, I’m NOT responsible for the work. I’m responsible for the TEAM who’s responsible for the work. In this left column is a list of what must I make them do what they CAN, passing the tension to its rightful owners.

The right column is brought to you by Blanchard — “the role of the leader is to do for the team what the team cannot YET do for itself.” In this column goes the list of what I must TEACH them to do so I’m not doing for them again next year what I’m doing for them this year.”

Leaders have exactly the team they deserve. Got a gap trap? Own up to it, and then pass the tension.

Your family (and your team) will thank you.


Done so.

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