Understand and Overcome Blockers and Filters for Leadership Success

Who you are today is based on every thought, feeling and experience you’ve had in your life up until this point. All these experiences build the lenses through which you see the world. These lenses can empower us and help us achieve our goals or they can limit us and keep us small.

As a career coach, I help clients identify and bring awareness to their filters then help them decide if they want to keep them. This concept applies to every client I work with, whether it’s an individual who wants to make a transition or an executive who wants to lead a team toward a vision. 

If a client is feeling stuck, a majority of the time it leads back to a blocker around the way they see themselves or the world. These blockers are created based on their filters. This quote from the famous psychologist Carl Jung says it well: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

That is why a huge part of the journey is becoming aware of your own filters and then choosing which filters are going to work best for you. 

There are many types of blockers that clients experience, but a few of the most common ones are called limiting beliefs, assumptions and stories. I learned these concepts from iPEC (The Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching) but you may have heard of them before.

For example, a limiting belief is a generalization about the way the world works that someone takes to be true. Some examples include: 

  • Only extroverts can be leaders
  • There is only one type of leader
  • I can’t do that type of work with my background and skills
  • Promotions don’t come easily 
  • Showing emotion is a sign of weakness
  • Success requires hard work
  • When you’re “too passionate” you make wrong decisions
  • Relationships in the workplace don’t matter

What is tricky about these limiting beliefs is that if someone believes something isn’t possible they are unlikely to even try it. Or they will expect to fail and will bring that energy to the experience, often creating unwanted results.

The reason it’s so important to educate ourselves on these blockers to success is that once we’re aware of them we can begin to do something about them. It is so true that awareness is the first step—really reflecting on and understanding how a particular blocker shows up for you and how it impacts you. From that place you can begin to explore how you would prefer to think, feel and experience various circumstances and then build the bridge to get there. 

Only when we bring awareness to the thoughts and feelings that are holding us back can we begin to create change. One of the important parts of creating sustainable change is taking small steps over time. 

When someone tries to make a broad sweeping change all at once, their mind will often become overwhelmed and revert back to where it was before. For example, if a leader tries to go from being unconfident to confident in one week, they might push themselves too far outside their level of comfort and ability and end up more reluctant to share their voice. It’s helpful to show the mind that stepping into this new way of being is safe and effective. Also to take smaller steps and learn from those along the way. 

In practice, this looks like gaining a new insight about yourself and who you are and then asking yourself what small step you can take in the next week based on what you learned or want to move towards. Then continue to take steps until you’ve arrived. 

This all comes back to having more choices and options instead of responding to life from a place of default based on past experiences. You possess the ultimate power from that place to create the life you want. 

If you want to begin this exploration in a safe, fun, and interactive environment, I’ll be speaking to the pdxMindShare community this September about “The Blockers to Career Success: A Primer.” In that session, we’ll begin to explore the three most common blockers to success and how they show up for you and your peers. I’ll offer real-world examples from individuals and leaders on how the blockers were impacting them and how they overcame them. Then we’ll begin to explore how to release some of these blockers. If you’re interested, you can sign up for free here


This article was contributed by Megan Bauer of Megan B Coaching. Megan coaches individuals, leaders and teams on how to lead more fulfilled and passionate careers and lives. Specifically, she helps professionals who feel stuck or unfulfilled move forward and create a life of their choosing and works with leaders and teams on how to show up with more energy and awareness in their roles and bring that out in their teammates.