The Ceiling of Complexity (March 2009)

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March 2009

The Ceiling of Complexity

Ever been really stuck? It may have made absolutely no sense. You are bright, willing and hardworking yet for some reason you can’t seem to get what you want. What’s going on here? You want to go to that oft-referred-to next level. It can happen in many areas of your life. Anytime you or your team has a goal or pursuit that continues to remain out of reach, consider the following:

Back in 1994, when first I was entering into the world of executive coaching, I was introduced to a concept called, The Ceiling of Complexity. Property of Coach Dan Sullivan of Toronto, The Ceiling of Complexity concept says that the reason a person, work group or team is blocked is that they are bumping into their Ceiling of Complexity. Their challenge or pursuit is simply too complex for them in their present state. That’s all. This concept takes the shame out of stuck.

Once it is evident that a Ceiling of Complexity is present consider these two questions:

#1 – Of what is my/our Ceiling of Complexity comprised? Is it inadequate resources of time or money? Perhaps it’s experience, technology, skill-deficiency, organizational support or right strategy. Don’t forget to consider things like fear, specific individual(s), information gaps, improper planning, corrupted communication, unforeseen random elements, etc. Initially naming and identifying the ceiling is important, but you may find that once you get into the issue, you see the Ceiling of Complexity more clearly and differently than when you started.

#2 – Who finds this simple? The Ceiling of Complexity into which you or your team may have been bumping does not belong solely to you. Many before you have dealt with and moved through this Ceiling of Complexity and have rendered it simple. You are unique and special, your ceiling is not. Seek out, partner with, employ or contract those who will reduce present state complexity. One of the hallmarks of an emotionally intelligent leader is their ability to ask for real help. They begin to know what they don’t know.

So, the reason next-level is next-level and not now level may be as simple as your ceiling. In addition to real progress, there is one more fruit to this coaching concept from Coach Sullivan. After a time, you simply stop having Ceilings of Complexity. Stymied, struggling and stuck become an outdated paradigm and have become your floor as you continuously move up.


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