In your career path, encountering a plateau is quite common, yet it poses a significant challenge. For those of you stepping into leadership roles, this phase, marked by a seeming halt in progress, calls for more than just acknowledgment; it requires strategic thought and action. Understanding how to navigate this stagnation is critical, not just for personal advancement but also for becoming an effective and influential leader.

Why it Matters

For aspiring leaders, the significance of navigating a career plateau cannot be overstated. This is your opportunity to embody resilience, adaptability, and the capacity to transform challenges into chances for growth. You don’t just GO through it; you GROW through it. Getting beyond this stage says a lot about how you’ll handle other challenges as a leader in your organization.

What Does a Career Plateau Look Like?

A career plateau may present itself in various ways: a lack of enthusiasm for current responsibilities, feeling overlooked for promotions, or reaching a salary peak with no further movement in sight. It marks a period where the trajectory of professional growth appears to flatten and can lead you to question your value, worthiness, purpose, and future direction.

How to Break Through, You Ask?

  1. Be mindful of your self-talk.  You don’t inadvertently undermine your own potential before you’ve even started. The narrative you hold internally has profound effects on your confidence and decision-making. Negative self-talk can act as a huge internal barrier, limiting your perception of what’s possible and hindering your ability to take bolder steps forward. Conversely, positive and constructive self-talk can empower you, building resilience and a mindset geared towards growth and success. So make sure you are continually listening to and adjusting your self-talk.
  2. Gain clarity on what you truly desire in your career and understand why. Allowing yourself the space to explore and define your professional goals is essential; without this clarity, you risk wasting precious time and potentially hindering your progress. It’s important to remember that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean it aligns with your career path or personal fulfillment. This ensures that your efforts and talents are directed appropriately.
  3. Adopt a Growth Mindset: Viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and growth is critical. This involves seeking constructive feedback, embracing the idea that skills and intelligence can be developed, and maintaining a commitment to continuous improvement. This mindset builds resilience and a proactive approach to challenges that will serve you well into the future. Because you know there will be more, right?
  4. Let People Help You. Seeking out mentors within your industry, engaging with leadership coaches, and participating in professional networks can provide fantastic support to you. These resources offer differing perspectives and strategies, which gives you a well-rounded approach to overcoming career challenges for yourself and the teams you lead.

Now what?

Begin with an assessment of the current state of your career. Is it your career overall that is stagnated, or is it particular areas? Commit to taking one immediate action (within 48 hours) that signifies a step towards change, whether documenting your wins, setting new professional goals, or reaching out to a potential mentor. The process of moving beyond a career plateau has already started for you at this point. If you’re questioning it and looking for answers, the answers will show up if you use these strategies on rinse and repeat!

Until next time, here’s wishing you all the Clarity you deserve to make the Impact you desire!


Debbie Peterson is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and consultant helping organizations create leaders who are “all in” on who they are, what they do, and how they can make a bigger impact. Visit