the shape of leadership

Teachability Stumbling Blocks

Eight ways leaders get tripped up in their growth

Teachability is critical to short- and long-term success. And most leaders would say they have a teachable spirit. But the truth is that teachability can easily seep out of our lives when age and comfort increase, and when certainty and stability decrease.

Are you teachable? One of the best ways to find out is to consider your susceptibility to stumbling blocks on the path of teachability. Eight common barriers can rob you of a teachable spirit.

1. Pride: You think you already know. The longer we live, the harder it is to say, “I don’t know.” Our pride can get the best of us, and our egos can drain the teachable spirit right out of us.

After all, if I don’t have the answer, I risk looking stupid in front of my peers. But true teachability is grounded in one essential quality: humility. Proverbs 26:12 says, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”

How can you increase your posture of humility to become more teachable?

2. Past: You rely on yesterday’s success. Too often, we let tried and true methods squelch new and improved opportunities.

We need to hold on to timeless truths and rock-solid wisdom. But if we’re aren’t careful, we can also turn yesterday’s success into an idol and allow the past to rob the future of its potential.

If you’re relying too much on past triumphs, you may wake up one day in a graveyard of irrelevance. Honor the past, but be loyal to the future.

What idea, strategy, or success from the past is keeping you from embracing new ideas and opportunities?

3. People: You don’t surround yourself with new voices. We enjoy being around people who think like us, act like us, talk like us, and lead like us. The problem is, it’s hard to learn anything new that way.

Author Andy Stanley once said, “If you are surrounded long enough by people who think like you think, you will become more and more certain that’s the best way to think.”

How can you widen your circle to connect with three new leaders in the next 30 days?

4. Professionalism: You’re already an expert. One of the biggest barriers to tomorrow’s teachability is the belief that you’re already an expert, that you’ve already arrived.

Daniel McFadden, co-recipient of the 2000 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, understood that. He said, “If you’re not careful, the Nobel Prize is a career ender. If I allowed myself to slip into it, I’d spend all my time going around cutting ribbons.”

After winning a Nobel Prize in Literature, T.S. Eliot said something similar: “The Nobel is a ticket to one’s own funeral. No one has ever done anything after he got it.”

If you lose your passion and curiosity, you’ll eventually arrive on a permanent plateau.

To remain teachable, you might have to get over yourself, unlearn some false assumptions, and take purposeful steps toward gaining new insights.

What do you need to unlearn to keep your expertise from undermining your future growth?

5. Plateau: You’ve lost your passion and curiosity for growth. Just because you grew in the past doesn’t mean you will continue to grow. Yesterday’s growth doesn’t guarantee tomorrow’s growth.

Growth requires daily intentionality. If you lose your passion and curiosity, you’ll eventually arrive on a permanent plateau.

On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your passion and curiosity for personal growth, and what could you do to increase it?

6. Price: You’re unwilling to do what it takes. The longer you grow, the more expensive growth will become.

This is true in every sense of the word. Growth will become more time intensive, because you’ll have to practice deeper thinking. Growth will become more financially demanding, because you’ll have to pay more to get in the rooms with the highest levels of coaching and training. Growth will become more painful, because you’ll recognize the sacrifices you have to make to reach a new level of impact.

There’s a price to remaining teachable. The question is, are you willing to pay it?

What would it cost you to get to the next level?

7. Perspective: You don’t mine lessons from your failures. One of the greatest teachers you’ll ever have is failure. Unfortunately, too many people don’t harvest the lessons this teacher sends their way. Instead, they view failure as nothing more than an event, a setback, an inconvenience, or, worse, a permanent roadblock.

However, if you never give failure permission to teach you something, you’ll miss the lessons that could lead to tomorrow’s breakthroughs. Failure offers perspective you can only gain by paying attention.

What lessons can you mine from your failures?

8. Predictability: You’re resistant to change. Predictability offers a sense of stability and assurance. But if we hang on to the predictable too often and too long, we’ll resist the changes that are necessary to grow and mature.

Predictability can put teachability out of business.

In what area have you become resistant to change, and what’s the first step you need to take to become more open-minded to a new way of doing things?

Don’t let these eight stumbling blocks keep you from progressing in life and ministry. Cultivate a spirit of humility that allows you to remain flexible and teachable.

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