When you find yourself stuck, have you ever noticed how a different perspective can change everything? It can often be the breath of fresh air you need to get yourself moving when you’re unsure how to proceed. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at a problem from a different angle, and at other times it’s challenging your own long-held beliefs to see what possibilities emerge. Instead of feeling stuck within your leadership role, you start to see the path forward, however faint the path may be.
I remember telling a colleague once about a time when I was really struggling, feeling I was ‘nowhere’ despite everything I’d done to complete something that really mattered. In response, she invited me to say those words again, and shift my emphasis just a little. I quickly realized that ‘nowhere’ was also ‘now here’ and the lightbulb went on—inviting me to reflect on all that I’d completed, instead of dwelling on all that still needed to be done. For me, it was an opportunity to experience a fresh perspective that instantly changed everything. There were still challenges to overcome, but the road ahead became clearer, and easier. I was able to renew my commitment to what I’d started and, in time, celebrate the completion of the journey.
I see this frequently when I’m coaching leaders who are committed to making a shift, yet frustrated that old behaviours keep holding them back. Change is hard and sometimes it’s helpful to have a trusted colleague or an external coach help you look with fresh eyes at the progress you’ve already made, as well as how you might tackle what remains.
Often, all it takes is a thought-provoking question to help us pause, reflect, and engage in some fresh thinking. This can be especially helpful when you’re in the middle of a personal or organizational change process, the place where it’s often hardest at the best of times. Or, when you’re tackling something entirely new to you.
Here are five questions to ask yourself when you’re stuck or feeling frustrated about how long and winding your path is. Perhaps there’s one that offers you the fresh perspective you need to get moving again.
#1. Does this still matter to me, and why?
‘If you don’t know WHY, you can’t know HOW.’ As Simon Sinek’s words remind us, beginning with WHY builds a powerful, inspirational platform for everything we tackle. Whether the goal you’re working towards is a personal leadership shift or a major change you’re leading in your organization, begin with WHY, and return to that place whenever you’re stuck or questioning your path.
‘If you don’t know WHY, you can’t know HOW.’Simon Sinek
#2. Am I being true to my values?
When the path you’ve chosen conflicts with your values—personal and/or organizational—it may be time for a course correction. This is especially true when the path still matters and your WHY is compelling.
For example, have you ever found yourself partnered with a colleague on an important project only to realize halfway through that your collaboration is creating enormous conflict or stress for you, and the project is suffering?
Take the time to reflect calmly, thoughtfully and without judgement about what’s really going on. Is this a situation in which you’re feeling your voice isn’t being heard or respected by your colleague? Or perhaps you’re noticing that your commitment to honouring deliverables and timelines isn’t being matched and the project deadline is at risk.
By taking the time to consider what’s going on, and what value is being compromised, you’ll be far better equipped to consider your next move. In this case, that might be calling a pause to regroup and open a heartfelt conversation with your partner about how your collaboration is going.
Or, it might be initiating an interim-review process that will allow you to realign your approach to the project as well as roles and responsibilities. Sometimes, a mid-process course adjustment can be just the thing that offers a positive shift in perspective and the motivation you need to keep going.
#3. Am I fully committed?
Be honest when you ask yourself this question. Be totally, brutally honest. You might even want to look yourself in the mirror as you do and pause to fully consider your answer. Try it for yourself and see what emerges.
#4. Am I tapping into the widest range of supports (people and resources) available to me?
It can be easy to forget how much help is often readily at hand; ask for it.
You might, for example, consider the leaders you admire in your own organization. Their experience and expertise can be a rich resource of ideas, inspiration, and encouragement. Whether you recruit a formal or informal mentor, or simply take a leader out for coffee and chat—you can tap into a wealth of support all around you.
Working solo? Consider creating your own network of allies you can turn to for support and encouragement. Options here include peer leaders as well as professionals with a wide range of experience. You might even consider joining an existing leadership learning network.
Each of these options can be a great way to share challenges, explore alternate ways forward, and gain valuable feedback.
#5. Am I fully appreciating what I’ve already completed, confirmed, or learned?
Changing some aspect of your leadership practice, or the organization you lead, is a difficult undertaking at the best of times. It is also a slow process. The practice of pausing from time to time to consider and appreciate what you’ve already learned and accomplished can be a powerful way of inspiring continued momentum.
Whether you’re stuck in the middle of a change or feeling like it’s time for something different in your leadership, inviting a fresh perspective can be a valuable source of inspiration. Thought-provoking questions such as the ones I’ve outlined, or alternative thinking from someone who can offer another point of view, may be all you need to get moving again. Try it out for yourself the next time you’re stuck and see what happens.