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Getting Unstuck: Leadership Development Tools For Better Results

Getting Unstuck, Leadership Development, Carolann Jacobs, Vivid Epiphany

Photo by Hedley

Who wants to know how to get yourself and your teams unstuck?  Wouldn’t that be a valuable skill to have in your leadership development toolkit?

To get ourselves and others unstuck, first we have to explore what’s getting us stuck in the first place.

Sometimes we get stuck because of our beliefs.  The perfect example is this blog.  Up until this summer, I wrote two posts a week on average.  Then, we started working on the design for version 3, and I quit writing on the blog.   What happened, and how did I figure it out?

Step one, reflect. This requires a distraction-free zone, so turn away from the computer.  Reflecting with a question, in this case,  ”What’s keeping me from writing on the blog?”  Notice i didn’t ask “Why aren’t you writing on the blog?” Questions that start with “why” provoke defensiveness, even in self examination.  ”What” or “How” questions are better.

Step 2, listen for the answer. Your unconscious mind is great at telling you what’s what, if you’ll  be still, listen and not filter.  All you have to do is ask, and take the first answer or answers you get… at face value.  No judging because that shuts off the flow.  I got two answers.  Answer one was that if we had to do a database merge or change, I didn’t want to create more work.  Answer two was that I could wait until version 3 was done.

Neither of these responses had any merit, and yet they were clearly beliefs I’d formed.  Rational or not, they are what they are.  That last belief was persistent, and so I decided that instead of trying to get rid of it, I’d be better served just pushing to get version 3 done.  While the belief kept me stuck for blog writing, it gave design on version3 some impetus.

Sometimes the answer doesn’t come as a belief, it comes as an emotion.  Simply put, we feel stuck or depressed or unmotivated.  These emotions have no energy, and in order to act, we have to get ourselves to a state with some energy. If you know NLP, chaining anchors might be a good technique to use.  If not, we do more reflection, again, in the form of questions.  Some questions you might ask yourself:

  • What are my thoughts around this task?  (Remember, thoughts drive emotions, so it’s important to identify thoughts that aren’t productive.)
  • What’s triggered this feeling?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • What do I need to know, that if I did know, would allow me to act?

Sometimes, we don’t know what the next step is.  You would think it would be obvious that we’d missed a step in the mental plan, but oftentimes, it’s not obvious.  By asking the questions, “What’s my next step?” and the follow on question, “What do I have to do before taking that step?”  we can get to the bottom of this for ourselves.  That second question sounds odd to people, so here’s a real life example from one of my clients, “Bob”.

One of the tasks on Bob’s development plan was to build stronger relationships with the people we’d identified in his career circle.  After 2 consecutive weeks of not setting an appointment with the vice president of his group, I walked Bob through this process.  Bob’s answer to the first question was, of course, “I need to pick up the phone can call her administrative assistant to get on her calendar.”  It’s obvious, except that he didn’t do this two minute task for two weeks.  Bob’s answer to the second question was the key, “I need to talk with my manager and let her know what I’m doing and why so that she won’t get think I’m going over her head.”   Ah-ha!  We found the missing step.  And good job to Bob’s unconscious for protecting him, because his boss did have a tendency to feel threatened about things like this.

Step 3, thank your unconscious mind. I know it sounds hokey.  Trust your brain-based coach, and do it anyway.  Rewarding your brain for doing what you want it to do provides positive reinforcement to repeat the performance.  Your unconscious’s main function is to protect your sanity and do what’s in your best interests, so letting it know when it’s done good job for you goes a long way to retrain it from unproductive programming.

So, now you know have some tools in your toolkit for getting yourself unstuck.  Now, let’s put some tools in the kit for working with your teams.

First thing, you have to create a safe environment.  Because you’re committed to being a servant leader, I know you’ve created the trusting environment where this is possible.

Step 1, establish your purpose for having the conversation. Your purpose is to help them think through the situation so that they can take action.  If they think you’re out to get them or make them wrong or they’re uncertain, the fight or flight kicks in.  Let’s avoid that by telling them what we’re up to and being trustworthy.

Step 2, facilitate their reflection. We do this with questions.  Start with setting expectaions, “I’m looking for the first answer or answers that come to mind, unfiltered.  We’re not looking for right or wrong here.”  And then ask the same one you’d ask yourself, “What’s keeping you from doing _____?”  or “What’s getting in the way of _____?”

Step 3, listen. What do we have here?  Is it a skill gap?  Fear?

Do not accept, “I don’t know.”  Yes, they do know.  They may not be willing to share it with you or themselves, and they do know.  One way around the dreaded, “I dunno,” is the question, “If you did know, what do you think it might be?”  That question gets around the fear of being wrong or asserting one’s viewpoint.

Step 4, address the situation. Sometimes, after step 3, we’ve got the answer and we can move on.  Other times, we need to ask some additional questions, such as the ones listed above.

Step 5, the next step . Ask the question, “What are your next steps?”  We want to make sure they know what do to next.  We wouldn’t want to get all this way only to have a gap.  You may consider following that question up with, “Is there anything getting in the way of acting on that?” just to be sure.

Step 6, get a commitment. If we’ve had an ah-ha moment especially, we need action to solidify the new thoughts/answers.  If the person or team can’t act right away, the next best thing is to have them commit to doing the next step.  And, set a time to follow up.  This puts an trigger in the unconscious that an action needs to be taken before the follow up time.

Step 7, follow up. We want to train people that we will follow up when we say we will, so follow up.  You’ll improve your team’s performance by doing so.

Be your best you today,

Carolann Jacobs

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