Recently, one of my clients was discussing an ongoing issue he had been working on. During the conversation, the client mentioned that this was “the 147th time” we had talked about how he needed to improve in this area of the business. It reminded me of a time when I heard a leader say, “I don’t make a lot of mistakes, I just make the same one over and over.” All of us have times when we get stuck when we feel as though we are beating our heads against the wall or running up against the same old obstacles. The question is, what can you do to get past it and start moving in a positive direction again?
Seek another perspective
One of the first steps to take when you feel you’re stuck is to seek an outside perspective from someone not involved in the situation. Since their perspective is removed from the emotions of the issue, they can access the facts with logic and reason. With probing questions, they can help you see areas you may have overlooked, and which need to be considered. This can help you focus and isolate on key issues so you can take action to get unstuck.
Track your results
Occasionally, what you think is happening in a situation is different from reality. When we are training people in personal productivity and helping them improve how they use and manage their time, we suggest using a time analysis chart to see where they are spending it. Often, people are surprised by what they find, and how different their perception is from how they used their time. Real data can help you see how you’re truly performing. It can help you realize you may be closer to reaching your objectives than you think. Once you’re aware of the gap, a slight tweak might be all you need.
Sometimes the way forward is to step back. When people get stuck, they often try to change things dramatically. Trying random new strategies or ways of working can be unproductive and result in a downward spiral. Every role or task has elements that are basic for completing them. Whether it is how you’re using your time, or how you’re managing people, some fundamentals must be practiced. When you’re stuck, return to practicing the fundamentals rather than trying a brand-new method. The fundamentals offer a solid foundation for you to rebuild your momentum and start moving in a positive direction again.
Do only what’s important
Often, when you’re overwhelmed obstacles appear greater than they are. When that happens, you find yourself over-committed and unable to do any one thing well. Although you believe you are doing important things, you can get caught up in false goals that sound nice but aren’t really in alignment with what matters most to you. Not only can these objectives be overwhelming, but they can also conflict with each other. Getting clear on what you truly want helps strip away all the other options and focus on those most valuable to you. And remember, saying “no”, is just saying “yes” to other critical commitments.
Clarify what’s right for you
You can constantly try to do what other people are doing and believe that what they have is what you want, without truly evaluating if it’s the right thing for you. Self-awareness is crucial to understand what is within your capability. Remember the ancient Greek quote, “know thyself”. Realize that there is power in recognizing your strengths and realizing that we all also have limitations. The myth that you can “have it all” can distract you from spending time where your true strengths lie. Your best efforts as a leader are when you are true to your authentic self in terms of behavior. Focus on the priorities that are most important to you, and on living the principles and values you hold most dear.
When you get stuck, consider these suggestions. They can help you move beyond the barriers you’re facing and allow you to reach new heights of consistency in performance and achievement of results.