Rory Gilbert addressed a common and frustrating problem in last month’s blog, Getting Unstuck (read here.) I’ve had lots of stuck moments in my personal life and in helping others with their moments. Whatever the situation, staying stuck is unpleasant at the least, and unproductive/unhealthy at its most. We can be stuck short term and long term, from a couple of weeks to years. What are your stuck examples?
Rory outlined a starting point and 4 strategies in her suggestions, and in this Tip of the Month, we will see how these points apply to two situations.
Start by acknowledging that you are stuck. Then
- Step back and reflect.
- Ask challenging questions.
- Separate fact from fiction.
- Enlist a thinking partner.
Michelle had a long-standing job as a middle manager, and she felt she enjoyed good relationships with the people she supervised, her boss, Diana, and her peers. Diana was direct and clear, to the point. There were no doubts about what was needed, but Michelle was also free to do things her way. She was secure in her role, and imagined retiring from this position in another ten years. Nine months ago she had a change in bosses, and her new boss John doesn’t give her much direction at all. . . he’s pleasant enough to work with, but his management style is all over the place. John is a talker, and Michelle finds herself having to use a lot of energy to interpret what John is saying, and listen for the tiniest bit of direction. Because Michelle was so happy with her job before John came on board, she has decided to just do her own thing and ignore John. Consequently Michelle is less and less engaged in the business, basically just biding her time. You are Michelle’s friend at work in another department and it distresses you to see her so disengaged. You guess her direct reports are seeing it too.
Acknowledge that you are stuck. In talking with Michelle, the topic of John comes up easily. Michelle readily admits that she feels stuck. Just the relief of admitting that to you turned out to be a trigger for taking the next step.
Step back and reflect. You ask Michelle to reflect on the situation. Looking at things objectively, what does she think is going on? Is Michelle struggling with change, or style differences? Is this new for her? Has she ever felt stuck in a personal or business situation before? How uncomfortable is the situation for her?
Ask challenging questions. As you continue with your friend, you ask if it is possible that John’s differences have upset Michelle’s plan to take it easy until retirement? How long is Michelle willing to stay stuck? How much is she willing to do to change the situation? How would she know when it might be time to leave the position, before her retirement? Ask Michelle what she thinks she is contributing to keeping the situation going. Has she asked for clarification from John? Does John really understand how Michelle likes to receive direction? How about setting aside time with John for just socializing? What does Michelle think her employees are seeing in her lack of engagement? How does she think it is affecting them?
Separate fact from fiction. What does Michelle tell herself about a boss who is “just a talker”? Does John need to be exactly like her in order to do a good job? Can Michelle accept direction from a person with a style she finds difficult to connect with, or to respect? Is it really possible to “take it easy” until retirement in 10 years? That’s a long time. What could happen in that period to change things?
Enlist a thinking partner. Ask Michelle what she wants from you as a friend and colleague. Consider suggesting that she find a coach or a mentor to listen objectively and help her through this phase. Does she know anyone else outside of work who has faced a similar situation?
Imagine yourself in this situation.
You are worried about your weight. At a recent doctor’s appointment, you were warned about the likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and you are already taking medication to lower your blood pressure. You saw the word OBESE written on your encounter summary. What a blow! You have struggled with your weight for years, and tried every diet and program that showed promise, but just when you begin to lose a little weight, you let your guard down and slip off the path.
Acknowledge that you are stuck. That word on the chart did it for you, as well as the diabetes scare. When you came home from the appointment, your first call was to a good friend, who knows your weight loss journey. He has weight issues of his own. You tell him that you really are committed this time. You need help.
Step back and reflect. What do you think is going on? Why are you wanting to take steps now to lose weight? Besides your health, how is your weight affecting your relationships and quality of life? Why have your prior attempts not worked long term even when you were losing weight? Were you bored, tired of the regimen, anxious about whether you could really do it?
Ask challenging questions. What are you doing to keep the situation from improving? What is your weight a symbol of? How bad do things have to get before you take permanent action? What is your vision for your life at the weight you want to be?
Separate fact from fiction. You think losing the amount of weight you need to lose is too hard. There’s just too much. . . The number is so big. The reality is that it will take awhile, but it is a one-day-at-a-time experience. And you are capable of losing weight. You have done it before. You decide that you need a plan to keep the weight off, not simply to lose it. You admit that you feel like a failure at this and maybe deep down you wonder if you deserve to be happy. In discussion with your friend, you figure out that you are not your weight. . . nor an ideal body image either. You are much more than what you look like, or even, what you do for a living.
Enlist a thinking partner. Sharing weight loss stories and plans with your friend hasn’t been very helpful. For support and ideas, you decide to join a group at work who is helping each other with healthy lifestyle choices. You also decide that seeing a therapist could be a good idea, and you start the process of finding someone to work with.
Admitting that you are stuck is the important first step on a journey to create momentum and change a situation that seems to be going nowhere. Being stuck can be a sign that says it’s time to take action, IF we pay attention, and follow through with reflection, great hard questions, separating fact from fiction, and having the support of a thought partner. Thunderbird Leadership Consulting offers executive and leadership coaching, and is available to assist you with situations in which you, or your workplace, feels “stuck”. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.