4 Things for Leaders to Do When Feeling Stuck

March 23, 2023

by Marc A. Pitman

In the best of times, leadership is challenging. In these times, the challenges seem to have exponentially increased!

It’s increasingly hard to make plans based on a high level of certainty. Planning can seem like a series of fits and starts. Fits and starts often controlled by the latest headline.

Take requiring a return to in-person work in offices. Leaders who’d made in-person commitments as the delta variant [of Covid] was subsiding are now second guessing those commitments as omicron rises. This isn’t just individual leaders. Even large employers are reportedly reversing action on in-person work, choosing to once again extend their work from home policies.

And that’s just in-person meetings. These same factors are impacting all decisions: sales decisions, hiring decisions, training decisions, purchasing decisions.

It’s enough to make you want to roll up into a ball like a hedgehog. Just wait it out until the danger passes.

But you and your team need more from you than that.

4 Things To Do When You Feel Stuck

Rolling up into a ball is an option. But it’s not one that leaders can afford to take. Teams depend on leaders actually leading – setting expectations, measuring progress, and equipping people to succeed.

So what do you do when you want to close your door and and unplug your devices? Here are 4 things you can do as a leader when you’re feeling like inaction is the easiest option.

1. Identify Core Values

Identifying values may seem counterintuitive in a list about taking action and getting unstuck. But in a time of constant change, leaders need to be clear on what isn’t changing. Those are rooted in your values.

Identifying your own personal values and your team’s or organization’s core values actually frees you up to lead with more confidence.

The tools and the strategies you use may change. But your values don’t. Using Zoom or Microsoft won’t change the deep commitment you have to your customers’ success. So take the time to separate values from tools. What do you stand for as a person? As a leader? And what does your team or organization stand for?

It may even help to right a manifesto of why you do what you do.

2. Get Clear On Tracking

Once you have a better understanding on what isn’t changing, it’s time to look at the work that needs to get done. What actions produce the revenue to keep your staff employed? What actions help create the atmosphere you want for your staff and customers? What actions does the board expect.

Review each of these and work with your team to set clear goals as closely based on these actions as possible. You’ll likely find that many are less closely tied to time than to outcomes. Knowing your direct reports call goals makes checking in on her easier. You’re not an irritation making sure she’s at work. You are still an accountability check, but more in a way to help her make the calls that are expected.

It also helps your team see what actions are most important for them to be successful.

3. Take Action

Now that you’re grounded in your values and clear on your expectations, you can start taking action. Things will be turbulent for the foreseeable future. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is facing fear and moving through it.

So face the unknowns by being anchored in what is known. And act on that.

4. Know That Everyone Is In A Battle

And as you go through this, know that you and each of your team is going through one of the collectively hardest times humans have experienced. We’re all fighting battles. This isn’t about “participation trophies” or to excuse non-completion of tasks. Work is not family. Each of us, as adults, have agreed to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in return for payment. We have a responsibility to live up to our commitment.

It’s about being human. About looking for something nice to say to your team. Going out of the way to “catch them doing something good.” We’re so used to finding deficiencies and faults, finding something good may take a while to feel natural. But with time, you’ll find you develop an eye for seeing at least one good thing the other is doing.

As you do this consistently over time, you will be surprised at how well people respond to it. Few of us ever get encouragement. So your paying attention will mean far more to them then you’ll know. Especially if you do this regularly over a period of time instead of trying it for a week or two and then forgetting.

Leadership is a Matter of Influence

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah, I wish my boss did these things,” you may be missing a key point. All of us can lead. Leadership is a matter of influence. Each of us exerts some level of influence on the world and systems around us.

Even if you don’t have a positional leadership role, try reviewing those four steps and see what you might be able to do in your current role. What values ground your work? Which tasks produce the results most required for your position? What action are you taking today?

And how are you catching people in the act of doing something good. Even your leaders. They too are fighting a hard battle. Chances are good they could use the encouragement too.

Concord Leadership Group founder Marc A. Pitman, CSP® helps leaders lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. His latest book is The Surprising Gift of Doubt: Use Uncertainty to Become the Exceptional Leader You Are Meant to Be. He’s also the author of Ask Without Fear!® – which has been translated into Dutch, Polish, Spanish, and Mandarin.

Marc’s expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences around the world both in person and with online presentations. And has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Al Jazeera, Fox News, SUCCESS magazine, and Real Simple. Marc tweets regularly at @marcapitman.