Push Harder, Dig Deeper, Raise the Bar…Or?

When we feel stuck, there is a tendency to push harder. What if that doesn’t work?

“If you do everything you possibly can to get something to happen, and it doesn’t, than an angel must be on the road somewhere, so don’t beat the donkey. Take a little time out, smell the flowers, and rethink your route and your mission.”

Frustration is part of leadership

Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. We all get stuck from time to time. The typical reaction

  • push our teams more
  • push ourselves even harder
  • work longer hours
  • add more resources
  • ?

Sometimes pushing more is helpful. Sometimes it is not. In his best-selling book, The Dip, Seth Godin shares how to know when to push through the muck, and when to “quit with integrity.” Much time and future opportunity is wasted on pushing through when it would have been better to quit and to try a different approach.

Frustration is part of careers

Frustration can also be part of careers. I often see people get “stuck” and start to push. The typical reaction.

  • push for an explanation
  • push for more feedback
  • do more stakeholdering
  • question our worth
  • ?

I remember the first time I felt really stuck in my career. A mentor told me, “what’s for you won’t miss you.” Not what my ambitious twenty-something self wanted to hear. I pushed harder. I got frustrated, disappointed and angry. The thing is, I never did get that “dream job.” Ironically, a few years later I was offered a much more senior job over that department, leading the people who now held that role.

Apparently, she was right “what was for me” didn’t “miss” me. I now regret all that wasted frustration.

Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. reminds us to “surrender control and allow yourself to be guided to the outcome that will be of highest service to both you and the world.” That can be difficult, but surprisingly effective.

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Posted in Authenticity & Transparency and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Push means work. Push isn’t natural. Push has a negative connotation.

    What would make it easy and fun? I’d rather play in this sand box.

  2. I gave up on the image of “pushing” my team and our organization to success.

    If I had them in front of me “pushing” them, I couldn’t see any potential approaching cliffs. I prefer to be out in front….or side by side when we can.

  3. It’s interesting… Leading by example, by inspiration and through character results in a team who ‘wants’ to work vs. ‘has’ to work. I like the idea of giving up the ‘pushing through’ concept and embracing the ride! Things are going to continue to be riddled with unexpected change. If we force and push too hard, something will end up breaking. You have to get out of your own way and your team’s way once in a while.

    • Shannon, so nice to have you joining the conversation. Thank you. Yes… pushing leads to something breaking.. I love your add… getting out of the way.

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