You are stuck when confronted with dilemmas. Maybe contradictory business decisions, or maybe the need to choose between two evils. Stuck here, means that the forces are equal but in opposite directions. They paralyse you. You feel the tension. Not pleasant.
But you can also be stuck when your circumstances are blocking you and you don’t see an obvious way out. You don’t have (or worse, don’t feel you have) control over those circumstances. Numerous pieces of research point to the mental and physical health costs of feeling hopeless, trapped, unable to get out. The whole ‘change management’ confusion of ‘people are resistant to change’ lies here. The sentence needs to be finished: ‘when they can’t do anything about it’.
Maybe you are stuck because, as leader, you have inherited a situation, perhaps even a structure, or a team, that you can’t change, and you feel the uphill struggle.
Maybe you are exhausted and you are stuck, or you are stuck and you realise that it is because you are exhausted. Not the same.
There is also a form of being stuck that is quite common. You were counting on somebody else to help, or a support system that you used to have, perhaps in a previous company. They are not there for you. You’ve never done it on your own. Stuck.
Being stuck is awful. It’s worse than being wrong, which can be changed to right, or less wrong, when you are confronted with a reality or a colleague, or the team. Or you see the light. Wrong is wrong in some direction. Stuck is stuck in no direction.
But you may be lucky and become unstuck.
Crisis is very good for this. Miracles as well. Suddenly the circumstances change and you move. People around you pull you out. Invisible forces push you. Combinations. That’s good. Welcome the crisis. Rahm Emanuel, when he was Chief of Staff for Obama said: ‘Never let a serious crisis go to waste’.
The hack: move! Yes, you can always move. The problem is your fear of moving in the wrong direction. You know what? It does not matter. It’s the wrong fear. Wrong is better than stuck. If you move in the right direction, bingo! If you move in the wrong one, you have a much better chance of redirecting yourself than if you don’t move. No movement, zero chances, stuck.
Translations of move: don’t go to the office, watch that entire Netflix series, start a new project, change the frame, change the circumstances, put yourself, your being, somewhere else, maybe alien, maybe banal. Hack 2: Don’t fight it. Or not yet. Allow the pulling forces (as above) to work.
Have a love pact. OK, you may not want to call it this in the office. Have a few colleagues, top level, medium level, any level, who have agreed to the following: if you see me stuck, shout. If I don’t move, shout louder. Tell me to move. And when I am saying that I worry about going in the wrong direction, tell me that any direction is better than no direction.
In the ideal world, have your Mutual Unstuck-ing Group ready, like a Rapid Reaction Force. It’s worth all the effort. And, if it is mutual, it creates lasting friendships.