Have You Reached a Growth Ceiling?

by Chris Cloud

Continuing on the theme of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we have invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. Business consultant Chris Cloud shares this mini-series on how to break through your growth ceiling.


A former client of mine, a venture capitalist, said he noticed an interesting trend. Each company his firm invested in, their leader would have a personal ceiling where he/she couldn’t grow the company past a certain point. For some it was $3 million in annual revenue, for others it was $300 million, but every single leader had a growth ceiling. That company never grew past a certain level until they brought in an entirely new management team.

From what I’ve observed, each growth phase of a company requires a different way of thinking, so most people can’t adopt new ways of thinking easily as the business or organization grows. All kinds of added responsibilities, dealing with high level investors, more employees, different market strategies, it all requires a different skill set. 

The Law of the Lid

John Maxwell calls this, “the law of the lid” for leaders. He said that if your “lid” is 7 out of 10, your family/group/organization will never grow beyond a 6. Or if yours is 4, you’ll never lead your team beyond 3.

We each have various types of personal growth ceilings or lids.

Are there ways to push past this growth ceiling, or is it set in stone for each of us? Wouldn’t it be sad if there was no hope of growth? I’ve been pondering this question for several years now.

Can we literally expand our capacity? I believe that our basic building blocks are always the same (our inherent DNA). We can’t change that, but we can grow into better versions of ourselves and our capacity is often way beyond what we could imagine.

Recognizing a Growth Ceiling

How do I know if I’m at a growth ceiling in my business or personal life?

1. Do you keep spinning your wheels without gaining traction?

2. Do you feel like the business or organization is at a place where you’ve lost control?

3. Are your investors or advisers asking you to do things that intimidate you, but you don’t know how to tell them that?

4. Is there a general sense that you’ve been at the same level for a long time, feel like you’ve tried everything you know to do, and still can’t manage to get past where you are?

5. Have you been unable to reach your goals in a certain area, month in month out or year in year out for a while?

6. Do you lack a clear vision for what life will look like after you finally get momentum in a certain area?

7. Have you been trying the same thing over and over and it just doesn’t seem to be working?

If you said “yes” to any of the questions above, you are probably at a growth ceiling. That is okay – the real problem would be in continuing forward without recognizing it!

The Truth Will Set You Free

There’s no breaking through a growth ceiling unless we (a) identify that we are at a ceiling or plateau, and (b) accept the truth that something will need to change in order to break through. The first step in addiction recovery is always “admit you have a problem”, so it is with growth ceilings. Step 1 is: admit you are at a growth ceiling.

Individuals reach growth ceilings, but they can be manifest corporately

In other words, organizations don’t reach growth ceilings, people do. The question is, do we have the self-awareness and humility to admit it, in order to be able to move past it?

If we stonewall, or pretend everything is okay, or ignore it, there is no getting past it. “I am part of the problem, and I am part of the solution.” There should be no blame-shifting. We need to be willing to change ourselves before anything else will change.

In the next article we will discuss ways that people have managed to punch through their personal growth ceiling and continue expanding their capacity. No personal change, no growth is easy. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it will take courage.

You know what’s amazing? For the believer, there’s hidden grace available if we’re willing to admit we are at a growth ceiling and begin looking for answers. There’s no shame in that, and there are buckets of grace available as you step out bravely.

In the next article, we’ll discuss ways to identify specific areas for growth, and how to begin punching through to the other side.

Read Part 2: Punching Through Your Growth Ceiling >


Chris Cloud Chris Cloud is an entrepreneur who has been living and working with his wife in Nepal over the past 3 years. He is passionate about helping companies and individuals identify their perceived growth ceiling, and break past that ceiling. He is partner at a firm in the U.S., ALIGN. ALIGN helps leadership teams clarify their “true north” and gain traction by aligning every aspect of the organization to that vision. He holds a degree in business administration, but counts his 12+ years of starting or serving in a series of fast-growing startups as his real entrepreneurial education! 

On a good day, you’ll find Chris running up a mountain or snowboarding down one. You can connect with him here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ccloud/