What Is Your Cognitive Ceiling?

How you can achieve success by acknowledging your limitations.

Alexander Spatari/ Getty Images
Alexander Spatari/ Getty Images

Have you personally, or has your organization professionally hit a cognitive ceiling? Are you normally a high-achiever? Does your organization usually experience overall gains? For some reason, do you seem to be topping out at a certain level or experiencing a decline in some areas of your business or life as a whole?

Are you personally hitting a barrier that you just can’t seem to nail down the reason for? Do prior solutions seem to no longer work?

There are various types of cognitive ceilings that will cause problems within the organization and/or with you as a person. Limitations will occur, and obstacles will appear in places that they perhaps haven’t prior. This is a sign that change is needed; a cognitive glass ceiling has been hit.

One of the things in life that becomes inevitable and within the world overall is change and the need for it. It is evolution, and life will present challenges and/or limits to ensure that you embrace and implement the necessary changes so that growth can continue to occur.

I will give a few examples of how these challenges and the need for change will become present in the corporate space.

The first case study is the reactive ceiling: The organization is no longer experiencing growth and/or has become stagnant. There is a lot of activity but without the results. After a period of time, a sense of urgency moves across all departments to get the organization back on track. In this case, the cognitive ceiling is one of being reactive and stuck in the hamster wheel. The organization will be responding to the constant struggles around it more than implementing proactive plans to further its success as a whole.

The second case study is the volatility ceiling: The organization has high turnover rates despite actually experiencing positive growth. There is a lack of retention that has become very costly, and it will begin to wear on the sustainability of the organization from within. Often in a situation like this, the executive leaders and mid-level management are not taking the time to develop their people and their teams, or they are taking the completely wrong approach with it. They are disconnected, and the culture is lacking because of it. There is a lot of growth, yet no real stability in this situation. The growth can be experienced through acquisition and expansion in a situation such as this one.

The third case study is the subordinate ceiling: The leadership is primarily focused on the numbers and financials as a whole. The leadership team has more of a dictatorship style as opposed to a development one. These leaders are not quite sure how to develop a team, so their approach becomes one of treating the team members like their personal assistants, giving exact orders that are to be followed and making all of the decisions to ensure control rather than to encourage collaboration. This eventually results in lack of ownership and engagement from the employees. It will increase turnover rates as well. People become more task-oriented in this situation, doing vs. developing and evolving.

Personally, we all know when we have hit a ceiling, something that is stopping us from growing and achieving the things that we want to accomplish in life. Personal limitations and cognitive ceilings can occur due to an array of things, such as past conditioning and experiences, family-inherited thoughts and behavior patterns, and personal fears that arise within us.

We all face plateaus personally and professionally. Life is full of moments where old solutions stop providing answers to new problems. The question is not if, but when…when we reach an invisible ceiling, will we settle into the limitation or will we dig deeper to find the answers required to smash through to the greater potential?

Cognitive glass ceilings are meant to be broken; they can only contain or stop us if we are not aware of them or intentionally pretend they do not exist. These options are not self-serving and will only impede our potential in life and business if we opt to turn the other cheek to them.

My advice is: Don’t try to ignore the cognitive limitations that are presenting themselves to you. Make the decision to hire an excellent consultant/coach who can swiftly move you through the barriers. The right person will help you smash through limitations quickly, using an inspiring and motivational style that will make the need for change much easier and potentially even fun! 

Don’t cheat yourself or the company out of essential growth for another day! Take action and pull the right people in to assist you with the forward-moving momentum that you need right now! It is “go time”!

Plan it, Drive it, Do it!


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