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Do you ever feel stuck?

Everyone gets stuck. It’s part of life. We all have problems to solve, a tendency to procrastinate, a fear of failure and slumps in motivation. At one time or another, in your career it is inevitable that you will feel like you’re stuck in a rut. There are a few simple steps to pulling yourself out of a rut, but the process is hard work for most of us.

Being able to recognise when you are stuck, unpick why you feel that way and then take action to move forward is an important part of your personal and career development. Good managers are also able spot the symptoms of ‘stuck’ team members and help individuals ‘unstick’ themselves.

The symptoms

The first step in moving on from a rut is to recognise you are in one. Have you ever felt that you lack motivation for your role, or felt frustrated that you are not achieving enough, or bored by doing the same tasks? Sometimes being stuck might be more than just experiencing these feelings; perhaps you had a disappointing appraisal, were turned down for promotion or didn’t get the job you wanted. Take a step back and acknowledge how you feel. Consider how long you have felt these lacklustre feelings – if it’s more than once and consistent over weeks, months or even years, you are experiencing symptoms of stuck.

Why are you stuck?

If you suspect you are in a rut, the next step is working out why. And a way to do this is to ask yourself ‘why?’ five times. Sometimes described as ‘toddler syndrome’, repeatedly asking ‘why?’ helps you get to the root cause of why you are stuck. Find a coach, mentor or trusted friend to help you work through your ‘whys’. If you find yourself answering ‘I don’t know’, try to break that pattern. Ask yourself: ‘If I did know – what would I say?’

How to overcome being stuck

There are several proven ways to push through being stuck and get moving again.

First, connect with your purpose. What is important to you? What activities make you happy? Why do you do the job you do?

Then take a step back to reflect. How is what you are currently doing helping you achieve your purpose? Are you in the right role, working environment or organisation that is congruent with what’s important to you?

Then focus on where you want to be in five years. I know it’s a contrived question, but it’s only when you know where you want to be that can you plan your route to get there. Your current rut might be a means to an end and knowing that can be helpful. Make a plan: what do you need to do to get to where you want to go?

Stop thinking about what you have to do and just do it. Force yourself to take the first step on your plan.

What stops you?

The above tips might sound simple, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. From my experience, the main reason that we get stuck is fear of failure. Being in a rut might feel miserable but it feels safe. Changing your situation can feel frightening because the majority of human beings feel apprehensive about change. Focus on where you want to go and why. Surround yourself with positive people to support and encourage you, and use that momentum to help you push through the inertia that fear creates.

Ruts can be good

Sometimes if you’ve had the same job for a long time, you might feel pressure to move on, change or do something different. Don’t let employers, colleagues, friends or family project on to you their perception of being stuck in a rut. If you are happy and satisfied where you are, stay put.

Finally, remember that being stuck is normal and it is part of the process of growth. Often, that stuck feeling intensifies right before a breakthrough. Acknowledge that being stuck could be a positive signal and work with it.

This blog was first published at People Management. 

If you are stuck and would like some help to get unstuck, drop us a line. Lucidity coaching might be just what you need to get moving in the right direction.

This squirrel shares its nuts

This squirrel shares its nuts because it’s an innovation squirrel.

Over the years, we’ve worked with many organisations, teams and individuals (and squirrels) to help them develop better strategies for creativity and innovation. What we’ve discovered is that new technology can help facilitate innovation, that a well-considered process can enable good ideas to become reality but the key ingredient to any successful innovation or change programme is people.

That’s why we’ve developed the innovation animals quiz. Find out what innovation animal you are here.

It’s a playful tool to help you identify your own innovation skills and preferences as well as those of your team. When you understand more about each other’s approaches to innovation it helps you to work together more effectively to make your good ideas happen.

For example innovation squirrels are social, curious and bold like other squirrels, and unlike other squirrels they know that hiding their nuts is not the best innovation strategy.

The innovation squirrel struggles to settle for the way ‘things are done around here’ and is restless to find a better way. Their favourite questions are ‘Why?’ and ‘So what?’

They share their nuts!

Innovation squirrels don’t hide their ideas away. They get them out in the open. By sharing their thoughts they give the other animals in their team the opportunity to build on their ideas and make them better.

The important team dynamic is that the squirrel feels safe to leave its nuts out in the open without fear of ridicule. If you have a squirrel in your team, you must create a supportive environment and be respectful of their nuts.

If you don’t, the squirrel may choose to bury them, and what if those nuts are the game-changing ideas that get lost, never to see the light of day? That is a bad outcome for everyone.

Take the animal quiz here. It’s just thirteen questions in 3 minutes to find out what innovation animal you are.

If you would like to know more about innovation animals, your innovation dynamic as a team and how to improve your performance, do get in touch lucy@lucidity.org.uk.

Illustration: Moyra Scott

Curiouser and curiouser – lessons from Alice

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Have you ever felt that you had to work really hard just to stay in the same place? Like a duck swimming in a current. Above water looking effortless and somewhat nonchalant. Underneath the water paddling like your life depended on it.

I see many organisations feeling this especially now. We’ve never been able to predict the future, but now the only certainty is uncertainty.

There is a need to think differently about how to solve some of the problems that we are facing. In uncertain times I believe that there is even greater need to work in collaboration with businesses, local communities, entrepreneurs and charity partners to achieve our shared objectives.

What road do we take?

“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”

The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Perhaps it’s just as well that we are all paddling really hard and staying still, because in our experience many organisations are not entirely sure about where they are going. Or in some instances some teams and departments are clear on where they are going, while others are just paddling and others are heading in a completely different direction.

The end result is that we all feel like the Mad Hatter (not good).

The first questions we ask when working with clients are, ‘Where do you want to go?’ and ‘What does success look like?’ It should be a basic question but the Alice in Wonderland quotes really chimed with us because often people and organisations don’t know where they are going, or different departments have different ideas about what the final destination (i.e. success) is.

It’s all very well for Alice. We can’t just disappear down a rabbit hole and eat cake and turn up again later and hope everything will be alright.

If any of the Alice quotes resonate with you, our advice is;

  • Stop running (or paddling) – Take time to think about where you are going. This is really difficult, you might drift backwards briefly, but it will make for better results in the medium to long-term.
  • Go back to basics – reassess what you are there to do. What is your core purpose? Stop doing anything that is not helping you to achieve it.
  • Involve your team – make sure they understand their core purpose and they also reevaluate anything else that are doing that is not helping them achieve it.
  • Check with your management team that you are not running in conflicting directions. And if you are – stand still. Regroup. Work through the difficulties. Start off again, this time all in the same direction.

And if you’d like some help with focusing on success then get in touch at lucy@lucidity.org.uk. 

Disruptive or marginal when it comes to innovation the key word is confidence

Innovation is an old-fashioned term these days. It seems that to keep it sexy you’ve got to use a prefix. Disruptive or radical, marginal or incremental. We can’t just plain innovate anymore.

In my experience whether innovation is disruptive, radical, marginal or whatever the next buzz prefix is; unless you have innovation in your job title innovation gets passed on as someone else’s job. Innovation is the work of the ‘creative people’. I felt this when I was an innovation manager in an organisation, all sorts of stuff landed on my desk with a friendly post-it attached along the lines of ‘its innovation – you work it out’.

In my view the best innovation happens when people work together, build on each other’s ideas, add new elements, develop new perspectives, understand audiences and focus on how to make the idea a reality.

I think the biggest barrier to delivering innovation (of which there are many lets face it, fear of failure, fear of success, internal politics, external politics, no budget, too busy, too many deadlines, wanting immediate results, the list goes on) is lack of confidence.

Lack of confidence, which is incubated by all the blockers and barriers that we battle with on a day-to-day basis when we try to create any sort of change.

I think it all starts in school. You get rewarded for getting things right, not for inquisitive enquiry, being different or asking questions. Like Pavlov’s dog we go to work and are rewarded for getting things right, for conforming. The only people with objectives around thinking differently or (dare I say it) failure are the innovation managers. Organisations talk about innovation, but their structures and processes do not encourage any different or creative thinking. Innovation is often blocked (see blockers above) or fails to gain traction because insufficient time and resource are invested into helping it succeed.

That’s why at Lucidity we work with people to help them build both their confidence and their capacity for innovation. Because we’ve learned from our own hard-fought failures that without confidence even the best ideas die on the vine.

Check out Lucidity director Lucy Gower speaking at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Congress in Toronto with some tips on how to innovate with confidence. The not for profit sector is founded on innovation, charities exist to solve problems for their beneficiaries. Yet even the best of us need to regularly top up our confidence to innovate, drive change and make the world a better place.

The worst advice for tackling the fear of public speaking

Most people fear public speaking. (even in countries where the spiders are harmless!).

Even people who do public speaking for a living are not exempt from the fear of standing in front of a room of people. I speak at conferences and events most weeks and experience a feeling of fear before I go on stage. I think this might be compounded by a skewed belief that at the end of a presentation unless I am carried out on raised arms being showered in rose petals, gold coins and applause that I’ve done a less than good job. Over the years I’ve learned that this only happens in Disney movies and not real life, but even if my evaluations are good I’m still always a little disappointed when it doesn’t happen. We call this post presentation remorse and over the years I’ve discovered that it happens to a greater or lesser extent to us all.

But I want to warn you about the worst public speaking advice I’ve ever received.

It was so bad that I’m now wondering if they were trying to sabotage my public speaking career. They said;

‘imagine your audience is naked’

No thank you, I’d rather not.

I wonder if the premise is that if your audience is naked they are vulnerable, and it can feel vulnerable to be on stage. So the audiences’ vulnerability at being naked makes it less daunting for you? Or is it that it might be funny and if you are laughing its harder to feel afraid? That’s all I can think of.

And anyway this thinking is flawed because your audience are not actually naked. (Thank goodness)

Trying to conjure up images of your naked audience is likely only going to make you even more fearful, panicked, nauseous and possibly in need of some form of post presentation therapy.

Even if your audience are super attractive and you’d rather like to see them naked it’s probably not a good idea to let your brain wander down that line of thinking immediately before a presentation. (Save it until after)

Anyway, if you’d like some really helpful coaching about public speaking, including how to manage pre-presentation fear and post presentation remorse and turn them into positives, (that absolutely does not involve nudity) then get in touch at lucy@lucidity.org.uk