Leadership Article


Leading Yourself - Getting Unstuck

When we want to achieve goals of any kind, change is usually required. Even if you have product schedules to meet, there are problems that come up that need to be dealt with. Of course, this adds to your workload, ramps up your stress levels, and requires you to do something you don't want to.

This is when procrastination can set in.

I agree with Deming when he said that people come to work to do the best they can. However, we have a natural tendency to avoid feeling bad. When we process thoughts, we will ignore something that creates negative feelings.

A good example of this internal process is a New Year's Resolution, like exercising more. You put a goal in place, you schedule it, and at first you do okay. Then what happens? You will stick with it for a week or two, but pretty soon other things seem to get in the way. Like: it's too cold out, I'm tired, I'm too busy, etc.

That same internal process happens with people in all contexts, and it may not be for the obvious reason. It maybe that your goal conflicts with other deeper discomforts.

Getting past the stuck place:

  • Be aware that it is happening, get out of denial.
  • Make a list of the reasons you're telling yourself are the cause of the procrastination. Be honest, and see if these are excuses.
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. I know, I know, this is way too "touchy feely" - business has nothing to do with feelings. Like it or not our feelings affect us even in business settings.
  • Once you can feel the feeling, allow yourself to learn what it is trying to tell you. Feelings have positive purpose.
  • Apply the lessons you've learned in a positive way, and incorporate them into your strategy for moving toward your goal.

Breakthrough to take action:

  • Do it anyway. At this point you should notice your feelings but do it anyway.
  • Eliminate all distractions. Close your email and your door.

Working with your team
This process can be done with a team, too. It requires a good deal of safety to do so. To help a team to move forward you need to have an open dialogue about what's going on. I don't mean the shame and blame game. I mean taking an hour to discuss what is really holding your team back. Delving into personal feelings is not required. You can ask them to "think" about it.