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Why CEOs and leaders should be alert for these growth inhibitors

Activators author and business coach Mark Green masterclass on fear and unproductive habits


Most CEOs and leaders aspire to reach their leadership potential: to be happy, a success, a superstar, and an amazing spouse or parent getting things done.

Why then, do SO many of us feel like a failure and an amateur, full of worry, or working too much? 

  • “I aspire to be on top of everything, but I feel like I’m floundering.”
  • “I aspire to be the best version of myself but sometimes it’s a grind.”
  • “I aspire to be energising for others, but I feel exhausted by the ongoing juggle.”
  • “I aspire to be committed to a course, yet I feel like I can never get started.”

Source: Responses from Growth Faculty masterclass

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Hidden Growth Killers masterclass

Activators author and powerful business coaching mentor Mark Green told this week’s Hidden Growth Killers masterclass the reason for aspiring to be one thing and feeling like you’re failing is this:

·       There is a huge disconnect between how we think leadership works, and how it actually works.

Stephen M.R. Covey says 9 out of 10 leaders cling to an old leadership style, but many of us know what we need to do. Mark Green says it is unconscious forces that stall us from acting on what we know.

Love and fear motivate us

At every step of our leadership journey, we filter everything through our mind, and this constant internal narrator is motivated mostly by “inspiration/love” or “fear.”

They are at the core of three hidden growth killers: Motivators, habits, and beliefs. These forces in our brains cause us to delay, slow growth, avoid, and tolerate sub-optimal behaviours from others. Why? Because doing the “hard, right things” is tougher than doing “comfort zone” actions. 

You know you’re susceptible if you’ve ever:

·       Delayed a critical conversation

·       Avoided making a commitment

·       Shared too much information

·       Retained the “wrong” employee

·       Refused to increase prices

Avoiding conflict, needing to be liked, not committing to a strategy, and not listening enough are more symptoms of hidden growth killers at play.

Activators for change

So, what can be done? Below, we look at FEAR OF FAILURE. Plus, two “Activators” for change are explained: REDUCE FEAR and CHANGE UNPRODUCTIVE HABITS. 


80% of our decisions are fear-based, says Mark. You could say fear consumes us. And, as Robert Ciladini explains in Pre-Suasion, what we focus on grows in importance for us. Most fears arise from concerns about one of three factors: ego (“How do I stack up?”), scarcity (“there’s never enough to go round”), or failure (risk aversion). And one appears to be in the lead. 63% of our masterclass participants nominated ‘Fear of Failure’ as the preferred reason (over ‘scarcity’ and ‘ego’) for preventing them from making big bets in their business. 

Symptoms of fear

You will, no doubt, recognise many symptoms of fear. They include:

·       You avoid loss more than pursue gains

·       You procrastinate

·       You flip flop (switch positions based on others’ opinions)

·       You make unreasonable continued sacrifices.

·       In your gut, you know you’re doing the wrong thing. 

Mark's Practical Ideas To Reduce Fear:

·       Slow down. As Daniel Kahneman says in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, resist the urge to act immediately. Don’t. Pause so you can override your default response which is to make a knee-jerk choice or decision.

·       Change your surroundings. Move out of your comfort zone networks who feed your fears and find those who challenge you logically.

·       Lay your cards on the table. Engage in deliberate, logical, non-emotional thought.

·       Use Mark Green’s Fear Reduction Tool


Habits show up all the time in business, says Mark. Research by Jim Collins published in his book Great by Choice showed that habits of thinking about luck even determined if a company would get a good return on any stroke of luck. An unproductive habit might be relaxing after winning a big account. Mark also referenced the Dunning-Kruger effect, which in psychology terms is when people have blind spots on where they are weak.

Common unproductive habits

Most common unproductive habits of leaders (observed by Mark):

·       Failing to commit to a strategy

·       Denying reality

·       Avoiding making decisions

·       Maintaining only comfort zone networks

·       Tolerating low performers

·       Needing to be liked

·       Avoiding conflict

·       Neglecting to listen enough

·       Failing to maintain routines

·       Tracking a few meaningful metrics

A survey on Top 5 Reasons CEOs Are Fired by boards revealed they were: Mismanaging change, Ignoring Customers, Tolerating Low Performers, Denying Reality, Too Much Talk & Not Enough Action. (Leadership IQ, 2015) This shows unproductive leadership habits must be replaced with productive ones.

Productive Leadership Habits

Mark says it’s important to establish a handful of foundational habits that make leaders successful, and to implement deliberate practise to develop them in yourself. His Top 5 are:

·       Capitalise on luck. Find opportunity in an key employee going on maternity or sick leave.

·       Seek simplicity. Battle complexity in everything.

·       Have a high Question to Statement ratio. Remember acronym W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?) Also, read about taming your Advice Monster.

·       Have high expectations. Top performers want to be challenged to stay engaged.

·       Over-communicate. Your job as a leader is not just to get better at feedback. It's to get what is inside your head into the heads of your staff.

Change Unproductive Habits

Rather than resisting a habit, replace it. You may have heard of the power of unlearning something. Well, author of New York Times article "Resistance is Futile. To Change Habits Try Replacement Instead" Carl Richards describes “ironic process theory” where actively resisting bad habits just makes you think more about them. He replaced one of his own habits by drinking a glass of water, which eventually overtook the other habit.

Eight Activators

Reducing fear and changing unproductive habits are just two of eight Activators for CEOs from Mark Green. For the full range of Activators go to

Mark’s Conversation-Starter Questions:

·       Think of the biggest pain point in your business right now. Are you in denial and not taking action? Are you taking comfort zone actions? Or are you doing the hard, right things? What’s the voice in your head telling you? Are you listening?

·       How is FEAR diminishing the efficacy of your leadership? Use Mark’s Fear Reduction Tool to use logic to overcome the emotion of your fear.

·       What UNPRODUCTIVE HABIT stands between you and your aspirations? Use Mark’s Change Your Habits Tool to identify a replacement habit that will stick.

·       Who can help you more consciously master your own Inner Voice?

If you liked Mark Green, don't miss James Clear in June. As these Atomic Habits quotes illustrate, James will go indepth into the science and psychology of habit formation, how to overcome motivational slumps and how to develop a stronger sense of self through your habits. Learn how to build a system to get 1% better every day with his 90 minutes masterclass. If you'd like access to James Clear's Atomic Habits masterclass and to increase your professional and personal development why not consider becoming a Leadership Pass Holder with Growth Faculty? Unlimited access to James Clear's Atomic Habits masterclass as well as 40 other live virtual masterclasses and Global Headliner virtual events - PLUS year-round leadership content at On Demand with videos, podcasts and book summaries. Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. Access $7500+ value for just $498 AUD. See who's up next.


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