Merge's Blog

What’s stopping you from moving forward?

As a leader, you no doubt have a multitude of issues to deal with – and what usually happens is that the crises get dealt with, but often everything else seems to drag on.  Thus, it’s useful to periodically ask yourself the question – what’s stopping you from moving forward?  Whether it’s streamlining an outdated work process, dealing with an ongoing interpersonal conflict, or getting that big project on your to-do list started, what is preventing you from moving forward?  I have a metaphoric perspective to offer.

Is your kayak moving forward?

moving forwardHere in the northern hemisphere, as the days get longer and the mercury begins to claw its way up out of the negative digits, collective minds turn to spring and upcoming warm-weather leisure activities.  I am no exception as I think longingly of my favourite watersport – kayaking.

Sitting low to the water at dawn, legs outstretched, the blades of my paddle slicing through the water like a knife through butter, moving almost silently across the vast expanse of the calm harbour, the stillness broken only by the rhythmic gentle sound of the oars and an occasional call of a seabird.  For me, the image evokes both serenity and triumph.  Serenity because kayaking gives me time to think.  And triumph because several miles of kayaking makes me feel like I’ve gotten a good workout.  But the picture-perfect scene quickly shatters …. when I realize that my kayak is still tied to the dock!

What is your workplace equivalent?

Sure, laugh if you must; I did too (well, much later) when it happened to me.  But I bring it up to make a very specific point.  You can paddle as hard as you want, but if you’re held back by a rope (or two, or three) tethering you to the pier, then you simply won’t get anywhere.  Which is an apt metaphor for workplace issues that don’t seem to be moving forward towards any seeming resolution.  Do you have any of those situations in your workplace?  And if so, what outdated assumption is preventing you from changing how you operate?  What existing work practice is holding you back from achieving your desired outcomes?  What archaic belief is interfering with the new or updated thinking that is needed to succeed?

As a leader, your role is to move your team and your organization forward – so that you can stay current and competitive.  But no matter how hard you try, you won’t advance into the future until you untie the rope that’s anchoring you to the past and the present.  As a leader, your job is to search out that rope and then to cut it loose.

So what workplace issue are you dealing with that is the metaphoric equivalent of trying to paddle a kayak that is still tied to the dock?  I would love to hear about your experiences and what you did to free your kayak.  Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

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