Whether You Like It or Not, You’ll Hit The Lid

Law of the Lid: Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. – John Maxwell

As I facilitated a discussion of the law of the lid this week, all participants agreed the leadership lid shows up in many ways:

  • Limiting beliefs
  • The environment we live in
  • Our inner circle
  • Work culture
  • The leadership style

The lid I have to deal with is self-management.

It is said the biggest success gap is the one between knowing and doing.

I remember an instance I was called to a late Friday afternoon meeting to talk about our upcoming deadline and the possibility of having to redo all the work thus far. As the meeting continued, I sensed myself getting frustrated by the attitude of the facilitator and the possibility of having to work all weekend to redo everything.

Halfway through the meeting, I asked a clarifying question hoping to release some of the frustration, how many more times are we going to redo work?

The reply: Until we do it right. This just took me over the edge, and even though I knew it was wrong, I stormed out of the room.

I’ve had my fair share of episodes like this one.

The aftermath? A broken reputation and a struggle to get people to listen to my ideas without thinking I’m complaining.

How have I raised this lid? Two ideas come to mind.

I. The Power of Questions
I have started the practice of asking myself, “what do I want to accomplish?”, “Will this reaction help me get there?”

II. The Others’ Perspective
I continually look for ways of paraphrasing what I heard and ask clarifying questions. This helps me identify the other person’s intentions.

I don’t have a perfect record with these practices but they have greatly increased my level of effectiveness.


What is limiting you? How are you dealing with it?




4 thoughts on “Whether You Like It or Not, You’ll Hit The Lid

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  1. Agree that clear communication can be difficult. I constantly craft and recraft messages and try to walk away and see them through different eyes. Nonetheless, I still get responses I don’t anticipate. Keeping the Power of Questions top of mind is a good strategy… Exactly what DO I want to accomplish? That helps keep out the noise that can get in the way. Nice post – thanks.

    1. I find it funny how much effort I can spend remapping my words or finding different ways to express myself and still find those “unexpected” replies from people.

      I then realize, that it doesn’t matter how I phrase it, people are still going to read or listen based on their world view and who they are.

      It’s like the chicken and the egg. The effectiveness of the relationship affects the communication, and the communication is needed in order to build a relationship.

  2. Re: (II) Clear communication is so difficult and so vital, particularly between groups with disparate skill sets.

    1. I find the challenge comes from the different mindset than the skills.

      I struggle someone’s trying to figure out how a person is perceiving the situation.

      What challenges are you having with these mix skills groups?

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