Encountering road blocks throughout you career (however big or small) is as likely as the sun rising each morning (at least in most parts of the world, most of the time). As a career coach I continue to be reminded by clients of the multiple shapes and characteristics these roadblocks can have. Sometimes they centre on difficult workplace relationships such as a manager and a poorly-performing staff member; two team members at odds with each other; or factions competing for power and attention. Other times roadblocks turn up as a lack of job opportunities or uncertainty about what to do next with your career, leaving you lost, discouraged, stuck, exasperated, confused.
Finding a way to navigate around the blocks usually requires trying something new, improving the way you go about things, and, inevitably, moving out of your comfort zone.
Take the example of a manager who cares a lot for her staff but cannot find it within herself to deal with a troublesome staff member. It’s a problem that has been around for a while and is only growing bigger as the staffer more often than not turns up late for work, is becoming less productive, and is negatively impacting the morale of the team. This particular manager, despite liking her staff, would prefer not to be managing people, but she achieved a promotion and with it the responsibility of staff management. She feels ill-equipped to deal with this staff member and is growing increasingly exasperated by the situation. In her mind it is becoming a very large problem partly because of her lack of experience in managing staff but also because she is being personally challenged to relate to this person in a way she is not comfortable with. She knows that she has to do something – she has to start, she just doesn’t know how. She is encouraged by the advice of a colleague who suggests she tries a few small experiments in managing this staff member – small low-risk actions that she can learn from that will enable her to grow into a more confident and competent manager over time. Her first experiment is to more purposefully look the staffer in the eye and provide very specific time-bound instruction about what is required for that day’s work. She rehearses what she has to say and how she wants to say it (even writing a mini-script) and gives it a go. It works OK – a little clumsy but a good enough start to encourage her to keep on trying and developing.
I really like this quote from Neil Gaiman – it’s a great expression of how at the same time it can be both easy and hard to make progress on something that matters to you:
Until next time, go well