Are You Stuck? Do Something Different!
Are you stuck, painfully aware of a stubborn problem that never seems to go away? Do you have a difficult goal you can’t seem to achieve? When you face challenges, you probably do what so many people do—repeat the same actions over and over again and wonder why you get the same results.
When what we are doing doesn’t work, we often try it again, only louder or harder each time. For example, do you continually pursue one achievement after another (even though it doesn’t satisfy your void)? Do you spread yourself too thin (despite the negative outcome of overextending yourself)? Or, do you repeatedly get angry with someone you see as uncooperative (although your anger fails to “knock some sense into them”)?
Do Something Different By Doing the Opposite
Sometimes this persistence brings you results, but more often it keeps you from getting you what you want. How do we define insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results! If you have one of these long-standing challenges, don’t do the same old thing you’ve always done! There are many creative ways to respond. You can laugh at yourself, the other person, or the situation. You can use actions when you typically use words. You can change your actions (gestures, eye contact, or voice tone/volume). You can do the opposite of what you typically do (no matter how absurd that may be). Whatever you do, remember: if you do what you have always done, you’re likely to get what you’ve always gotten. When what you’re doing is not getting you the results you want, just do something different!
Do Something Different: Ask Yourself Powerful Questions
Ask yourself some of the same powerful questions provided in my book “Leadership Success in Spite of Stress”. For example, “Where do I always seem to get stuck?” “What do I usually do?” “What can I do instead?” Think of any new way you might respond to the situation. Experiment and do something unexpected, something different. Here are two “Magic” questions (from the book) that I ask my clients to help them find a new solution when they are stuck: “Considering a problem you face over and over, what new, creative action could you take? Instead of your usual, ineffective response, what specifically could you do?” And, “Are you stuck? Do something different!”
Client #1 Who Chose to Do Something Different: Jackson
Jackson is a senior manager whose superiors shared with him that he wouldn’t move much further in his career unless he changed his style of working with people in the organization. Apparently he alienated most of his employees as well as internal and external customers. At first, Jackson was reluctant to set any goals. He claimed, “What they want me to do is nonsense. I can’t see how it will make a difference.” Like so many other executives, Jackson had too much pride to think that he could learn very much from others. After all, he must have been doing something right to get to his current level in the organization.
My first response to Jackson’s comment was, “What do you want? Is what you’re doing working for you? Is it getting you what you want?” Since his answer was “no”, I asked what he needed to do differently. I also asked him whether doing what his leaders wanted him to do would cost him anything. He paused for a moment and replied, “No, not really.” Then I asked, “What are the benefits of complying with their requests?” That seemed to get him going. He finally moved beyond resistance.
Next we brainstormed some ways to improve his managerial style—delegate more diplomatically, give people specific, constructive feedback on their performance, hold an annual management retreat, and regularly reward direct reports for successes. Within a month, he and his team were already making improvements. His subordinates responded positively. So Jackson could see the benefits of changing. He proudly announced to me, “People like what I’m doing and I feel like it’s the right thing to do. Because he saw the benefits, he finally had buy-in. In fact, he began to say things like, “This is actually fun.” That convinced me that he was committed to change.
As he became more proactive at improving his leadership ability, Jackson was promoted. The stress of a tenuous future with the company dissipated and people in his department began to see him as one of the best executives in the company.
Have you found yourself asking someone, “How many times do I have to tell you?” Have you repeated yourself until you were “blue in the face”? Well, if you’re tired of doing more of the same, do something different! That “something different” could be following through with action or doing the opposite of what you typically do.
Client #2 Who Chose to Do Something Different:Shaun
Shaun is another example of someone stuck doing the same old ineffective thing over and over. Shaun was a very strong manager, but he was abrasive. To make matters worse, he doubted his need or ability to change. Shaun was reluctant to try new behaviors for fear of making a fool of himself. For years, he failed to listen to people and instead interrupted them with irrelevant questions and comments. Whether he was relating to his peers, his leadership, or his subordinates, he lacked understanding, compassion, and diplomacy. Shaun gave his employees vague, harsh feedback that attacked their personalities but provided no insight regarding improving their performance. Or he offered no feedback at all. Whenever anyone gave him feedback on his destructive behavior, he replied, “This is what I’ve always done and this is who I am.” Our first task was to challenge his negative, self-defeating beliefs such as “I am what I am.”
Once we identified his goals and negotiated an action plan, Shaun read management handbooks and attended our LeadershipU coaching group. Therefore, he learned such skills as listening, responding with empathy, giving corrective feedback targeting the problem rather than the person, and challenging employees in positive ways. Actually, Shaun already had learned some of these skills, but had forgotten them. He just needed coaching to refresh his prior training and remind him of what worked in the past. During the coaching groups,we did several role play practice exercises. Because it was a safe environment, this gave participants permission to take the risk of practicing new behaviors.
To give him just-in-time feedback, I attended meetings with Shaun and shadowed him during other work activities. This way I could give him on-the-spot input such as, “Shaun, in today’s meeting you listened to and responded with empathy to others. That was great! How did that feel?” After listening to his response, I asked, “By the way, can I make a suggestion?” Then I would interject with feedback like, “Earlier you interrupted James, who was going on and on with another one of his monologues. That was a good interruption. In the past, you interrupted people only when you weren’t listening. Today you summarized his main ideas and, with the skillful use of a few questions, you showed him how he could implement his idea. Others were happy you took on James’ rambling. He learned something and so did the others. You saved everyone a lot of time.” This immediate, constructive feedback allowed Shaun to build his self-confidence because it pointed out that he could be decent, listen well, and still use his assertiveness and strategic, critical thinking proactively.
Now, it’s your turn: Rather do the same ol’ ineffective thing you’ve always done, what can you differently?
Author, Trainer/Facilitator, Executive Coach
LPI (Leadership Practices Inventory) Certified Coach
DISC Certified Behavior Analyst
AdvantEdge Success Coaching & Training
Leadership from the “inside-out”. Not only what great leaders do, but also how they think. More than just skill sets–mindsets, too. Beyond information, to TRANSFORMATION!
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