“What are you pretending not to know?”

“I need to replace Nicole and Seth,” Bill said, without hesitation.

With that, Bill articulated something he said he had known for two years. He loved his team and appreciated the loyalty they had always demonstrated, but he knew deep down that he didn’t have the team behind him he needed to grow his company. They could no longer take him where he wanted to go. 

In our work at The Covenant Group, we often meet people struggling to drive results because they haven’t faced their reality honestly. They know they have to shake things up, yet find themselves struggling to make a change. Tough decisions have consequences and implications. Those of us focused on driving results have to ensure we don’t deceive ourselves.

It’s not uncommon, for example, for a company to have someone on the team who can’t be fired. The reasons for that can be complicated. The individual might be the owner’s son or the main investor, or they may play a key role that’s difficult to replace. When an unfireable is underperforming, things can get tricky. 

In our work at The Covenant Group, we often meet people struggling to drive results because they haven’t faced their reality honestly. 

I often refer to companies as teams and not families and we need the best team on the field if we’re going to win the game. The first step in driving results is asking yourself what you’re pretending not to know? Too often, the easiest thing to do is to delay because of the implications of whatever it is we’re pretending not to know. That’s what happened with Bill. He had known for two years that he needed to replace Nicole and Seth. Replacing them would, however, cause considerable disruptions to his business and would also bring uncertainty. 

Bill wanted to pivot his company and knew Nicole and Seth didn’t have the skills to drive the company in the direction he wanted to take it. He spent two frustrating years not achieving the results he wanted. He had worked hard building a great company culture and worried that new people would change that. Bill told himself he could put off the difficult decision. He convinced himself he didn’t have time to make changes when, really, he was avoiding difficult conversations. 

The first step in driving results is asking yourself what you’re pretending not to know?

Bill and I worked together to make a plan for him to transition his company. It was time to pull the plug and stop putting off the inevitable. Six months after replacing Nicole and Seth his company made two of the biggest sales ever.

Free yourself up to do better work.

For good reason, many of us avoid difficult decisions and challenging conversations. In hindsight, Bill saw that his indecision had drained him emotionally. Delaying change simply held him back from focusing on furthering work he enjoyed. Once he made the necessary changes, he felt free to do more of what he loved doing. His new team brought new ideas and processes that allowed him to focus on being in front of clients.  

Label your emotions and remind yourself what change will bring.

When Bill began describing where he wanted to go, he began to realize that the team that had brought him his success didn’t have the skills to take him where he needed to go. Because he valued his team and their loyalty, Bill struggled, painfully, to come to terms with the harsh truth that he needed to restructure his organization.

“What would be different if you made this decision?” I asked.

“I’d have the capacity to move my business to the next level.”

We then focused on what was standing in the way of making his decision. Here, we worked at labeling his emotions and articulating what would be different if he made the changes.

A delayed decision is a choice to settle for the status quo. 

Letting people go is always difficult. As I continued my work with Bill, I learned he first thought of making a change four years earlier. In speaking with me, Bill realized he could have enjoyed four years of increased revenue had he owned his difficult decision earlier. It’s also true that each year he delayed his decision added a year to the severance payouts he eventually gave Nicole and Seth. Four long years of emotional turmoil and lost revenue could have been avoided.

Step into difficult decisions and conversations.

The results you achieve are largely determined by the decision you make. Driving results is strongly related to the decisions you make. The earlier you can have difficult conversations and make those difficult decisions, the sooner you can move forward. Once Bill made the decision and start on his new path, he spoke of how relieved he felt; a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. One of the most important aspects of driving results is having the right team on board. There’s no magic to that, but there can be a lot of emotion involved when making difficult decisions. 

Bill’s story highlights several things that get in the way of driving results. Perhaps the biggest step we can take is to get out of our own way. So many of us sabotage ourselves. We’re masters of our own demise. We delay difficult decisions and avoid the emotional. When we tackle a difficult decision head-ore, we can quickly move to our next step. When you think about your own goals ask yourself what you’re pretending to not know? It might just be your key to redefining performance.