What To Do When You're Really Stuck

I received this email from subscriber (modified enough for anonymity). Let’s call him Guy.

Would you be up to offer a little free advice to beat down manager? I have been in some type of leadership position for over a decade now. Two years ago I took over as manager of the noted, “ really tough crowd” in our company. A slight understatement, but–I was up for the challenge.

In discussions with my boss, she informed me that I needed to win my team over and that I did not have their respect. I have never had anyone tell me anything like that with either of the previous teams that I oversaw. Dazed and confused, I moved forward.

I have worked beside them and did the same jobs that they were doing, and bought them breakfast or donuts when I held early morning meetings. I’ve taken some of them to lunch to get to know them. I championed for their needs for extra fabric, materials, and machines, and got them the resources they needed.

I have stood before them and asked them to tell me what they needed me to do to work better for them and make their work lives better–very few responses but at least a couple of them offered.

Today I was lambasted by my boss because of one individual who easily gets her feelings hurt when she is required to do more than she believes she should be doing. The epitome of, “ I’ll do what I want to.” Each time I have tried a new approach, and ease into conversations with this individual. I now have all but stopped trying to work with her. I only get in trouble when I do.

So, tell how you would proceed. I am at my wit’s end. I am giving up. It became painfully obvious to me when I began this email seeking advice from an unfamiliar, outside source.

Most of us have hit a wall like that.  We all have times in our careers where we feel stuck, lack confidence, or wonder why no one sees things our way.

If you’ve ever felt even a third of what Guy’s feeling, it’s easy to have similar sentiments like “Maybe I should just give up.”

When it gets that bad, the co-author of our upcoming book, David Dye, and I encourage you to start with three words.

“How Can I…”

With those three words you:

  • Return focus to your own power and ability to act
  • Tap into the energy of your prefrontal cortex–the part of your brain that problem-solves and plans
  • Vastly increase the odds of finding a solution
  • Take responsibility and ownership for the one thing you can control–yourself.

Let’s try some “How can I?” questions with Guy’s scene.

  • How can I better understand this employee’s resistance?
  • How can I get more input and feedback from my team?
  • How can I set clearer expectations?
  • How can I build deeper trust with my boss?

or maybe even…

  • How can I find a job that doesn’t make me so frustrated?

When you ask “How can I?” you might honestly respond with “I don’t know.” That’s okay. Try David’s bonus question,  “What might I do if I did know?”

Now watch what happens. It’s amazing how you can generate ideas when you give yourself permission.

Sometimes you’ll realize that you don’t have the information you need in order to craft solutions. Then the question becomes, “How can I get the information?”

Stuck sucks. But you can and will get through it. Start with the simple question, “How do I?” Then move to an even more powerful question, “How do we?”

Looking to get your team unstuck? Call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

What To Do When You’re Really Stuck

I received this email from subscriber (modified enough for anonymity). Let’s call him Guy.

Would you be up to offer a little free advice to beat down manager? I have been in some type of leadership position for over a decade now. Two years ago I took over as manager of the noted, “ really tough crowd” in our company. A slight understatement, but–I was up for the challenge.

In discussions with my boss, she informed me that I needed to win my team over and that I did not have their respect. I have never had anyone tell me anything like that with either of the previous teams that I oversaw. Dazed and confused, I moved forward.

I have worked beside them and did the same jobs that they were doing, and bought them breakfast or donuts when I held early morning meetings. I’ve taken some of them to lunch to get to know them. I championed for their needs for extra fabric, materials, and machines, and got them the resources they needed.

I have stood before them and asked them to tell me what they needed me to do to work better for them and make their work lives better–very few responses but at least a couple of them offered.

Today I was lambasted by my boss because of one individual who easily gets her feelings hurt when she is required to do more than she believes she should be doing. The epitome of, “ I’ll do what I want to.” Each time I have tried a new approach, and ease into conversations with this individual. I now have all but stopped trying to work with her. I only get in trouble when I do.

So, tell how you would proceed. I am at my wit’s end. I am giving up. It became painfully obvious to me when I began this email seeking advice from an unfamiliar, outside source.

Most of us have hit a wall like that.  We all have times in our careers where we feel stuck, lack confidence, or wonder why no one sees things our way.

If you’ve ever felt even a third of what Guy’s feeling, it’s easy to have similar sentiments like “Maybe I should just give up.”

When it gets that bad, the co-author of our upcoming book, David Dye, and I encourage you to start with three words.

“How Can I…”

With those three words you:

  • Return focus to your own power and ability to act
  • Tap into the energy of your prefrontal cortex–the part of your brain that problem-solves and plans
  • Vastly increase the odds of finding a solution
  • Take responsibility and ownership for the one thing you can control–yourself.

Let’s try some “How can I?” questions with Guy’s scene.

  • How can I better understand this employee’s resistance?
  • How can I get more input and feedback from my team?
  • How can I set clearer expectations?
  • How can I build deeper trust with my boss?

or maybe even…

  • How can I find a job that doesn’t make me so frustrated?

When you ask “How can I?” you might honestly respond with “I don’t know.” That’s okay. Try David’s bonus question,  “What might I do if I did know?”

Now watch what happens. It’s amazing how you can generate ideas when you give yourself permission.

Sometimes you’ll realize that you don’t have the information you need in order to craft solutions. Then the question becomes, “How can I get the information?”

Stuck sucks. But you can and will get through it. Start with the simple question, “How do I?” Then move to an even more powerful question, “How do we?”

Looking to get your team unstuck? Call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

6 Ways To Encourage Persistence (Without Crushing Your Team)

“Persist through CRAP.Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, and Pressure.”

Persistence– the common denominator of success. Dissect the stories of highly successful people across any context: relentless commitment, radical hours, laser focus, tremendous sacrifice. I’m always inspired by the stories of those who’ve “made it.” Bottom line, highly successful people have an abnormal commitment to their vision (hear from Michael Phelps, Will Smith and others in this short video. Cliff’s notes: work your butt off and be relentlessly persistent.
You can’t expect your entire team to care that much or live like that. But, connecting your team to a powerful vision and encouraging desire to achieve it, is vital when developing your people.

Teach the power of persistence.

 6 Ways to Encourage Persistence

  1. Model Obsession – I’ve been called a “maniac” and “obsessed” more than once in my quest to develop great leaders and winning organizations.

    I get what Phelps and others say in the above video. There’s truth to Will Smith’s confession, “I’ve never seen myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is a ridiculously, sickening work ethic. The person that works the hardest wins.”

    Model persistence to your vision. Be a positive maniac for what you believe in. Your energy will inspire.

  2. Empathize to Energize – If they’re frustrated and disappointed chances are you are too. Many leaders pile on with additional pressure. I’ve NEVER seen that help.

    A better choice is to acknowledge your feelings, and work from there. “I know we both wanted this project to be successful, and it’s not going the way we want. I understand your frustration. I’m feeling it too. Let’s brainstorm the best solution from here.

  3. Leverage Success – When someone’s down it easy to remember all the other bad times. Help them to recall their prior successes.

    Mine past wins to inspire future solutions.

  4. Break Down Frustration – Frustrated feels overwhelming. There’s nothing more intimidating that a stack of against you odds. Help them break down the problem into attainable solutions. Celebrate the small wins.
  5. Outline Options – Stuck sucks. See beyond closed doors. Ask questions to identify options. Options empower and inspire perseverance.
  6. Encourage Relationships – Most frustration and failure involves relationship breakdowns. Encourage stakeholdering and communication. Help them identify potential supporters. If there’s a real jerk involved, work a squeeze play by surrounding him with supporters of your idea.

One Dip or Two? Lesson's From Seth Godin's The Dip

How do you know when to muscle through and when it’s time to stop? This concept, coined by Seth Godin as “the dip” is vital to understand in our own work and in our leadership of others.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”
~ Thomas Edison

Every now and then a young leader will approach me for my story, “what did you do to get here?”

When I share a bit about the less than glamorous journey, including commuting to the Bronx from Baltimore for months on an almost daily basis during my stint as a single mom or the travel I am doing now to small towns across the country where you can be sure to find a Waffle House, I get the same reaction. “Oh.”

Seth Godin writes well on this subject in The Dip. He describes the value of slogging through the tough times on the right pursuits, and knowing when to quit the wrong ones. As Kenny Rogers would say, knowing when to “fold em,” frees up time to work on what will make you great. He compares 3 scenarios and how to know them when you see them.

Godin’s Big 3

  • Dips (hard times you need to get through to learn, grow, and achieve)
  • Cul-de-sacs (dead ends, where more hard work and slogging is unlikely to help)
  • Cliffs (dangerous pursuits leading to disaster)

I am very familiar with the dip. I am currently in the deep throws of at least 2 or 3 big dip servings, and am keeping a keen eye out for some early signs of culdesac.

It is vital to pay attention to where you invest your time. His concept of quitting with integrity is important.

However, I disagree with his premise that “being the best in the world” is always a useful objective, and a reasonable criteria to judge quit worthiness.

Lots of important contributions are made from folks who are great, but not necessarily “the best.” If we have too much quitting going on, the world will lose out.

He uses the analogy of the Boston Marathon, and how most quitters, quit in the middle of the race, during the “Dip.” True. I’ve run it, and the middle is tough, and it feels great to get through it.

What I think he is overlooking is that just qualifying for the Boston marathon is a huge deal for many runners, a great goal and a fun achievement. Lots of regular folks have big fun and become stronger working toward this goal.

They have already pushed through a few dips. Most will not be the best in the world, and it doesn’t matter. There is value in journeys that do not end in greatness.

Godin shares, “the problem with infinity is that there’s too much of it.” That’s the fun part.

We have so many choices and so many chances. For ourselves, and to offer as options for those we lead.

One Dip or Two? Lesson’s From Seth Godin’s The Dip

How do you know when to muscle through and when it’s time to stop? This concept, coined by Seth Godin as “the dip” is vital to understand in our own work and in our leadership of others.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”
~ Thomas Edison

Every now and then a young leader will approach me for my story, “what did you do to get here?”

When I share a bit about the less than glamorous journey, including commuting to the Bronx from Baltimore for months on an almost daily basis during my stint as a single mom or the travel I am doing now to small towns across the country where you can be sure to find a Waffle House, I get the same reaction. “Oh.”

Seth Godin writes well on this subject in The Dip. He describes the value of slogging through the tough times on the right pursuits, and knowing when to quit the wrong ones. As Kenny Rogers would say, knowing when to “fold em,” frees up time to work on what will make you great. He compares 3 scenarios and how to know them when you see them.

Godin’s Big 3

  • Dips (hard times you need to get through to learn, grow, and achieve)
  • Cul-de-sacs (dead ends, where more hard work and slogging is unlikely to help)
  • Cliffs (dangerous pursuits leading to disaster)

I am very familiar with the dip. I am currently in the deep throws of at least 2 or 3 big dip servings, and am keeping a keen eye out for some early signs of culdesac.

It is vital to pay attention to where you invest your time. His concept of quitting with integrity is important.

However, I disagree with his premise that “being the best in the world” is always a useful objective, and a reasonable criteria to judge quit worthiness.

Lots of important contributions are made from folks who are great, but not necessarily “the best.” If we have too much quitting going on, the world will lose out.

He uses the analogy of the Boston Marathon, and how most quitters, quit in the middle of the race, during the “Dip.” True. I’ve run it, and the middle is tough, and it feels great to get through it.

What I think he is overlooking is that just qualifying for the Boston marathon is a huge deal for many runners, a great goal and a fun achievement. Lots of regular folks have big fun and become stronger working toward this goal.

They have already pushed through a few dips. Most will not be the best in the world, and it doesn’t matter. There is value in journeys that do not end in greatness.

Godin shares, “the problem with infinity is that there’s too much of it.” That’s the fun part.

We have so many choices and so many chances. For ourselves, and to offer as options for those we lead.