Don't Put A Top Rung On Your People's Ladder


Don't Put A Top Rung On Your People's Ladder

Every now and again, someone will say something, a simple phrase that will cause a major ripple in your thought process. That happened to me recently in a client meeting.

One of the participants was sharing a story about his 12-year-old developmentally-disabled daughter, talking about al that she has taught him as a father. Then, he shared a piece of wisdom provided to him by her pediatrician. The doctor explained that one of the biggest challenges that parents of disabled children face is that they inadvertently place limits on their children, lowering expectations because of their disability. The physician said, "Don't put a top rung on your daughter's ladder."

As I reflected on that physician's words, I quickly came to realize that this is a challenge that extends far beyond just parents of disabled children. So often we make snap judgments regarding a person's potential - either they've got ti or they don't. Once we've dropped them into one of these categories, it largely defines how we will interact with them from that point moving forward.

Creating Limitations For Success

The challenge is that those snap judgments simply are not a good determinant of one's potential. After all, a snap judgment would say a man who stood at 5'3" could never play professional basketball, yet at 5'3," Muggsy Bogues played 14 seasons as a point guard in the NBA. A snap judgment would say a child who didn't learn to speak until the age of four wouldn't make much of a ripple in the world, yet Albert Einstein went on to win a Nobel Prize and shape the pillars of modern-day physics. A snap judgment would say a homeless, single mother on welfare could never become one of the world's bestselling authors, yet that is exactly what J.K. Rowling did with her Harry Potter series.

There are countless examples of people on whom we can easily make a snap judgment, placing a top rung on their potential and saying there is no way they can succeed, yet they go on to defy the odds.

As leaders, we must consider that perhaps our snap judgments on people and their potential aren't serving us or them. Maybe there are far more influential forces that drive a person's likelihood of success, something that simply can't be seen in a snap judgment - forces that allow a person to overcome what others might perceive as barriers or even insurmountable obstacles.

When you study the commonality in all peak performers, the forces that drive them to succeed become self-evident. They form a framework by which a person comes to understand, influence, and drive their behavior in optimal ways, regardless of setbacks, obstacles or what others perceive.

Measuring Motivational Intelligence

Accountability, adaptability, resilience, initiative and courage are always present in those who succeed. These five characteristics are the outcome of a person's motivational intelligence. The bottom line is that you can't put a top rung on the ladder of a person who is motivationally intelligent. They will consistently defy the odds and find a way to succeed no matter what.

You see the proof of this every day all around you. You see it when you look at your best people, the ones you would hire 100 times over (if you could just find more like them). You see it every time a problem arises and someone takes ownership of finding a solution. You see it in your most adaptable people - the ones who can roll with all the changes, brush off the challenges and still find a way to succeed.

People with high motivational intelligence possess the five core characteristics that we value most as business leaders -the ones that make all the difference:

  1. Their higher motivational intelligence causes them to be highly accountable. The insistent reliance on pointing fingers, blaming others and making excuses is not something they waste mental energy on. Rather, they take ownership of their goals and achievements and find solutions to their challenges.
  2. People with high motivational intelligence are also extremely adaptable. They are open-minded and willing to listen. Where others drag their feet in resistance, they broaden their horizons. When they run into roadblocks, they constructively adjust their approach and just keep looking for ways to win.
  3. A resilient perspective is another key characteristic of people with high motivational intelligence. They refuse to be thrown off-track at the slightest bit of resistance. Their positive perspective and quiet confidence relentlessly propel them forward.
  4. They have a willingness to take initiative. When they see a problem, they work to fix it. Their higher motivational intelligence causes them to be more driven to accomplish goals and be self-motivated regarding success.
  5. And last but not least, people with high motivational intelligence move with courage. It's not that they don't experience the emotions of fear or doubt, they simply have the ability to override these self-limiting feelings. The prospect of change doesn't hold them back, they recognize it as part of the natural order of life.

Consider this for a moment: If you saw higher levels of accountability, adaptability, resilience, initiative and courage in someone, is there really anything that could stop them? Is there a top rung on the ladder to their success?

How about from an organizational perspective? What fi accountability, adaptability, resilience, initiative and courage were key cornerstones that were fostered as part of the team culture? How different would the organization look? What could be accomplished?

As organizational leaders, every day our actions breed something. There are causes and effects to the ways in which we interact with our people. Are we putting a top rung on their ladder or are we perpetuating the characteristics that will propel them to never-ending levels of success?

Related Articles

Putting Yourself In Drive: How to Tap into your Motivation

The one common component in every great success story is motivation: an ever-elusive elixir that allows people to overcome challenges, work around roadblocks and find the drive to persist in the face of every adversity. Motivation is the rocket fuel of success. Those who possess it will always travel farther than those who don't.

Living a Life of Maximums

There is one crossroad you will come upon every day. It's a subtle intersection point that, unless you are aware enough, you might miss, walking right by and not even noticing it's there. Yet this one point, this one transition, will profoundly shape the life you'll lead: Will you succeed or suffer? Will you endeavor or simply exist?

The Single Most Important Decision you make Everyday

There are two things that separate us from virtually everything else on the planet. The first is opposable thumbs (a trait we share with a handful of primates, koala bears and some South American tree frogs). However, it's the second trait that truly makes us uniquely human. It is our ability to take in, process information and make conscious choices based upon it.

Fail Frequently, Fast and Forward

What if the one thing you avoided most, something you dreaded and feared, was the most important part of succeeding? Most people hate the very idea of failure.They loathe thinking of themselves as coming up short, missing the mark and not succeeding. For many, just the possibility of failure is enough to convince themselves that it is not even worth trying. Isn't always better to set the bar low, keepexpectations in check and minimize the risk?

Four Steps to Finding the Courage to Conquer your Fears

What if I do this and it doesn't turn out right? What if I screw this up? What if I mess up this sales call? What if I forget what I'm going to say in this big presentation? What if I embrace this new strategy and it doesn't work?

Want to Succeed in Life? Just Start Thinking like a Two Year Old

People aren't born to fail. Both science and our own experience has proven this to be true. At the time each of us came into the world, we were born with everything that we would need to build an incredible life for ourselves. It was handed to us, gifted to us innately, woven into our DNA.

The Secret No One Told You about Success

What is it that makes someone great? Is it some innate ability? Some unique skill set that they were gifted with? Is greatness something that is bestowed upon some but not others? Is the ability to be great at something, at anything, woven into the DNA of a select few?

The Lies of Life

The truth liberates, it empowers and propels us forward. Yet in modern day society, finding the truth is nowhere near as easy as seeing the rising of the sun and the moon. However, the lies that put limits on people and their potential are as abundantly available as the air that we breathe.

What's Luck got to do with it?

When you take the time to consider all of the common phrases that exist in the English language containing a reference to the work "luck", it is little wonder that so many people possess such an overriding belief in its mystical powers. In fact, most of us would be hard pressed to go through the day without someone making reference to the word, luck. Each time we hear it, we nod our head and subconsciously buy-in to the all fire trap of thinking that success and luck go hand-in-hand.

Ultimate Responsibility: Life's single greatest equalizer

There are certain fundamental truths that regardless of circumstance seem to stand the test of time. One of these is the fact that victims never win.

Try Mojo — it's free

Mojo was designed for people dedicated to becoming the best, and companies that care about helping their people on that journey.

Go to