Obstacles, distractions and things that get in our way are part of the norm of life, both at home and in the workplace. Recently, my sometimes well-behaved Weimaraner (large, needy and extremely affectionate dog) decided to shred her bed in the middle of the night, leaving the mess for me to discover the next morning when I had no additional time to spare before a demanding client meeting. This is life, right?
How you coach yourself through the obstacles of life can mean the difference between having a meltdown, spinning your wheels, or successfully navigating the obstacle and moving forward. Building self-awareness and being open to not having all of the answers are two tools for working through obstacles, especially at work.
Recently I worked with a client who is facing some very real obstacles to completing a project because of functional silos that exist in their workplace. The walls seem to be pretty tall and thick in some places, and the environment is territorial. You may have experienced this in your own organization. You and your department might even be “those people.”
Working through, around or with obstacles is a lot of what we are called to do in our work as leaders. It could be called problem solving or teamwork or team building or living in chaos, and in today’s VUCA world (the acronym for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), it is the norm.
Here are a few tips to consider when coaching yourself through these challenges:
- Consider accepting what is, rather than wasting time wondering, “Why me?” Managing unproductive emotions usually enables you to think more clearly and arrive at a better solution.
- Acknowledge that you don’t have to have all of the answers. As a team leader or member, being vulnerable enough to ask for help when the answers are not apparent or easy will strengthen the team and the success of the outcome of actions that you decide to take.
- Take the time to debrief and learn from why this situation arose and what worked, or not, in the solution. Being a consistent and persistent learner will set you up for more successful outcomes.
- Curiosity is generally more productive than blaming, whether it’s someone else or yourself. If you ask yourself, “How did I end up here again?” and truthfully respond, you might learn about assumptions you make or promises you’ve broken, or something else that will be useful to help you learn how your behaviors influenced the obstacles that you are facing.
- Think through the missing conversations that would have prevented the obstacles, or could break down the barriers. Leaders are paid to have productive conversations, and sometimes we resist having a conversation for fear that it will be confrontational, painful, or something else. The conversations we avoid generally create relationship barriers and can contribute to the obstacles we face.
- Tap your sense of humor. Some obstacles are serious; many are not. Using humor as a response to obstacles, whenever reasonable, is good for your soul and the souls around you.
My lesson learned is that dogs are not always predictable, and that it would be a good practice to have an extra dog bed on hand to make it easy for me to stay on my schedule. I admit that I don’t have an answer for why my dog did this, so I accept that this will most likely happen again, and I elect to find humor in the situation. What’s funnier than a million pieces of cotton/poly blend at 6:00 a.m., after all?