What’s the secret sauce behind growth? 

Sure, we have the obvious: right product, right place, right time. But from my experience the ingredient must include being bold, achieving alignment, bringing insight and overcoming orthodoxies. You get these right and you will be guaranteed to find yourself on the right growth path.

It does not mean growth is easy but getting on the right path is key.

When I look back at the growth orientated leaders I have worked with, these are the common themes associated with their success:

  • They are prepared to ask really bold questions of themselves and their organisations
  • They are able to achieve very high levels of alignment with their executive teams
  • They are super open to bringing new insight into the room
  • They are more than willing to challenge their orthodoxies

I’ll cover the others in due course, but in this blog, I want to talk about being bold.

Why do companies struggle to grow or achieve the growth rates they desire?  The starting point is that we as leaders are not asking bold enough questions of ourselves and our business.  Or even worse, we are asking the question but not prepared to answer it honestly.

Example. If you ask, “how do I generate incremental revenue growth?” or “what’s it going to take to make the next big deal?” then the very best answer you are going to get is how to generate incremental revenue growth or how to close that next big deal.  And to be honest, you are probably going to end up somewhere south of that.

So, why are we inclined not to be bold?

From what I can see, the “rule book” holds us back.  The conditionality of doing business holds us back from asking the big question.  Somewhere on the journey we have been conditioned to be sensible. Don’t waste my time; it’s impossible, there is no way this can happen. Over time this inherent conditionality builds up into an overactive sense of realism, or perhaps a sense of trepidation that the bold question cannot be answered.

Being bold does not mean being reckless.  Being bold means setting a mindset on how to grow. 

Is your mindset focused on setting the bold growth agenda or have you been consumed by an overactive sense of realism?  In other words, do you crave big outcomes but somehow, you’re not thinking big?

Go back to when you started. Think of that moment you got your idea for your new business or got the CEO role of a business.  Think about your mindset back then.  On a scale of 1-10 how excited were you on where you could take it? 

I would say you were pretty excited and that turned in to “let’s do it”. You see the potential, you start to get bolder, but you meet opposing forces. Conventional wisdom starts to slow you down and before you know it you are tied up in the mechanics of “doing business” and making stuff happen but you lose the appetite to be bold.

Over time that realism thing just keeps on kicking it. It gets reinforced every single day by the financial challenges, the people issues, the management board.  There is this constant noise of problems, challenges, issues. There is this perceived necessity to grow up, get organised, get processes in place. You name it, there is always something to do.  BUT guess what, all of this is weighing down your ability to ask the bold question.

Your job is to set the big question, find a way to answer it and start a journey to get to it. If you ask the big question and you get halfway there, then it’s more than likely to be halfway better than incremental growth. 

So, what is the bold question you are going to ask of yourself and your management team?

  • What will it take to grow 5% this year?


  • What will it take to dominate my market in Scotland, UK, Europe or the World?

Two questions, with very different answers

Remember.  It’s only a question.  It’s not a commitment.

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