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Dinner in Restaurant

What is holding you Back?

As we move to the close of another year (they seem to go faster and faster as I get older), it's a good time to stop, prop and reflect on the year that has just passed before you race headlong into another year.

There is a range of tools and techniques that you can use, but a straightforward and robust design has shown to me by my colleague, James Atkins (, which is to ask yourself some simple questions that cut to the heart of the issue.

The questions revolve around two interconnected concepts:

1. Shackles – these are the “things” that are holding you back from achieving your full potential. They can be external factors, but I find that in most cases, they are the internal challenges that we all need to face. Our Shackles are the natural barriers to us moving forward.

2. Shields – these are what we hide behind. Shields are the things that enable the Shackles to restrain us. Again they are usually internal factors rather than external factors. Your Shields will be the constructs that give validity to your Shackles.

For example, Your shackles could relate to your perception of yourself – “I’m not good enough” or “I can only work with X type of clients” or “In the past, I did Y…”. The Shield could then be something like hiding behind…. “my lifestyle” or “a lack of qualifications”.

So, the process is simple.

1. Focus on the relevant area, e.g. personal performance, departmental performance, product performance, business performance, etc.

2. Ask yourself the following questions: Shackle: What is holding me/us back from achieving our full potential? Shield: What are we hiding behind that enables the Shackles to exist?

3. Develop some action plans to address your Shackles and Shields – use a tool like ForceField Analysis for extra leverage in this task.

POWER TIP: If you are unsure whether you have identified the core issue, ask some trusted colleagues for their take on your shackles and shields and/or use a tool like “5 Why’s” to help you drill down. You will find a short video on the 5 Why’s a technique here.

I have found this technique very powerful and have used it on myself and my business and clients. Make sure you take the time to drill down to what are the critical issues for you.

Use this as the starting point for your reflection and planning in 2019.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.



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