In the fast-paced world of business, it is not uncommon for small nuisances, annoyances, and unaddressed challenges to accumulate, eroding productivity, diminishing morale, and impeding long-term success.

These lingering issues, known as tolerations, can range from minor inconveniences to more significant bottlenecks that hinder growth. Identifying and eliminating these tolerations are essential to maintaining a healthy and thriving business environment.

In this article, we delve into the concept of tolerations in the context of business, exploring how one leader proactively addressed and resolved his business tolerations to unlock greater efficiency, creativity, and success within his organization.

It was the late Thomas Leonard, Founder of Coach University and father of the modern coaching movement, who coined the term, “Tolerations” and explained the concept this way:

“We humans have learned to tolerate so many things. We put-up with, accept, and are dragged down by people’s behavior, situations, broken or missing belongings, unmet needs, unfinished business, crossed boundaries, annoyances, problems and even our own behavior.”

The concept of identifying and eliminating tolerations, is a powerful tool in the Coach’s Toolbox that is commonly used with individuals who seek to upgrade their life in the shortest amount of time.

The same tool can be used with equal effectiveness in the realm of business. By looking at their business through the lens of tolerations, business leaders can quickly gain new awareness about what may be holding their business back, while giving them a simple process to bring about significant change in the shortest amount of time.

Whether applied to a life or a business, the process is the same: create a list all the annoying, frustrating or bothersome things you are putting up with in your life or business and then make a plan to eliminate them.

Here’s an example of the Toleration Elimination technique applied to business.

My client, Zach, runs a design and branding studio. (Name and business type have been changed for privacy.) He and his team are exceptional at what they do, but like many business owners, he often feels overwhelmed, overworked and underpaid.  The energy and enthusiasm he once had for his business had diminished, and because of that, he was having a difficult time keeping up with his work and attracting high-caliber clients. Not surprisingly, company morale was suffering as well.

I asked Zach to make a list of all the things that were annoying or frustrating him in his business.

What were some of Zach’s Business Tolerations?

  • Informational clutter that had formed stagnant pools of paperwork all around the office.
  • A backlog of emails.
  • The lack of a systematic process for handling new inquiries which necessitated follow-up calls and caused estimate delays.
  •  An inadequate filing system that made it difficult to retrieve information quickly.
  • Lack of a follow-up process for prospective clients. If a prospect did not not say “yes” quickly, they were lost in the shuffle of new business with little chance of ever becoming a paying client.
  • Lack of a stay-in-touch program with clients after project completion. Like most business owners, Zach and his team worked hard to get new clients, but once the project was over, there was no system in place to nurture client relationships which reduced repeat business and referrals.
  • Haphazard marketing that cost a lot but wasn’t being monitored or tracked for effectiveness.

For most business owners, creating a list of business tolerations is not difficult. It’s just that they’ve never looked at their business from this perspective ensuring their tolerations are not resolved in a timely manner – or at all.

How Zach’s Business Tolerations Affected Him

Reviewing Zach’s list with him, I asked how his tolerations made him feel. His responses show the significant impact tolerations can have on a business owner’s peace of mind, stress level and motivation.

  • “I feel like I need to be at the office all the time. If I’m not there, I’m anxious and worried that something is going wrong.
  • “From the minute I arrive at the office, I feel like I’m behind the eight ball.”
  • “I always have this nagging feeling that things are out of control and I’ll never be able to catch-up.”
  • “When I see all those emails and piles of paper around the I office, I worry that something important is about to fall through the cracks – or it already has.”
  • “I feel overwhelmed and distracted much of the time – even when the business is closed.”
  • “I find myself cringing internally when a new client calls because I can hardly handle the amount of work I have now.”

Zach had so many significant, energy-draining tolerations, it was no wonder his enthusiasm for his work had diminished and his anxiety levels were high. But once he was aware of his tolerations and the toll they were taking on him and his team, he needed no encouragement to start eliminating them.

After sharing this technique and the list he had created with his team members, more tolerations were identified and added. Together, they brainstormed a plan to resolve each and every one of the things that were annoying or frustrating them in their work.

Here’s a partial list of how they eliminated some of their most pressing tolerations:

  • Paper and electronic clutter was processed, dealt with and cleared.
  • New color-coded inquiry forms were created for each job type and included all the questions necessary to create a complete and accurate estimate.
  • An unused room that had become a dumping ground for clutter was cleared and transformed into a calming space for team members to relax.
  • Efficient paper and electronic filing systems were created that allowed quick access to any information desired.
  • A simple tracking system was created for all marketing.
  • Weekly team meetings were scheduled in ink.

A month later I stopped by his office to check-in. Not only was Zach’s energy more effervescent, the energy in the entire office was elevated. The space felt lighter, more orderly; calmer, yet electric. Best of all, Zach reported that by eliminating some of the significant things they had been tolerating in the business, he and his team members were feeling calmer and more confident in their ability to deliver fabulous products and services to their clients. It showed in their work. Best of all, Zach reported that his enthusiasm for his business and his creativity had returned. He was very excited to fill me in on all the new opportunities coming their way.

The simple process of identifying and eliminating business tolerations promises to be a transformative journey for any leader or entrepreneur who care to take it. By resolving the hidden annoyances, distractions and frustrations that impede progress, leaders can create a calmer, more productive and efficient work environment that benefits the entire team and all those they serve.

Colleen Kilpatrick

Colleen Kilpatrick is a multi-talented business owner, creative collaborator and author of the transformational book, “Eliminate What You Tolerate: A simple, proven way to regain focus, increase productivity, and liberate your energy for the more important things in life.” Colleen is known for her exceptional ability to break down complex concepts into practical, step-by-step solutions that can be understood and implemented with ease. With her extensive experience in marketing, business innovation, personal development and spiritual teachings, Colleen brings a unique perspective to her work with entrepreneurs inspiring them to unlock their full potential and courageously share their best gifts with the world.