Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: overcoming obstacles

What bungee cords are preventing you from moving forward?

moving forwardLast April, here on the blog I asked the question: What’s stopping you from moving forward?  And to answer it, I used the metaphor of paddling a kayak.  Today, I have another metaphor to address the same question.

Imagine a bungee cord

Imagine a bungee cord.  One end is attached to a fixed object and the other is hooked to the back of your belt.  As long as you stay close to the stationary end, the cord remains loose and there is no tension.  But as you walk away, the slack in the cord will begin to tighten and you’ll feel a pull on your back.  Continue to step away and you’ll find that eventually it will be a struggle to keep going. In fact, not only will the bungee cord hold you back from moving forward, but you will also be at serious risk of either losing your pants or getting smacked by a broken bungee.

All of us have bungee cords attached to us, links to the past that hold us back from moving forward.  And the more we try to get ahead, the more the stress and tension grows forcing us to stay where we are.  And often the fear of losing our pants or getting smacked by the broken bungee keeps us from continuing to try. Continue reading

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  Whether it’s streamlining an outdated work process, dealing with an ongoing interpersonal conflict, or getting that big project on your to-do list started, what is preventing you from moving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.  Continue reading

Three steps to less workplace stress

MichelleMay2Dr. Michelle May is a member of my mastermind group, a small group of professional colleagues that serve as an informal advisory panel to each another.  Even though she usually spends her time helping people break free from emotional eating, I persuaded her to guest on the blog today, writing on a subject that I know is on the minds of leaders (and their employees) everywhere – managing workplace stress!  At its core, stress is a medical issue so I knew that Dr. May would have valuable advice to offer.  And she didn’t disappoint!

x —————— x —————— x

When you’re experiencing stress, your impulse might be to power through, freak out, or stick your head in the sand (procrastinating, eating, drinking…you get the idea). As we’ve all noticed, behaviors such as busy-ness, overworking, smoking, overeating, drinking alcohol to excess, isolation, and taking our frustration out on others, perpetuate the stress reaction. Continue reading

Workplace frustration drains motivation and lowers performance

frustrationLast week, I blogged about leaders who often get frustrated about aspects of their working environment.  See How to approach a difficult working environment.  A reader sent me a link to this paper: Workplace Frustration: A Silent Killer in Today’s Organizations  (published last year by the Hay Group) to emphasize that it isn’t just leaders who face workplace frustration, but also their employees, often because of their leaders.  Point taken.  So in the spirit of giving insights to leaders who want to make their workplaces less frustrating for their employees, I offer the following summary of the Hay Group article.

When held back by work environments that hinder performance, employees get frustrated.  Frustration is an inherently unstable state, so within a year, frustrated employees will do one of three things: Continue reading

How to approach a difficult working environment

CanongateI often hear from leaders who are frustrated by working within what they characterize as a difficult working environment. They feel like they are not given the resources they need, the authority they require, or the support from senior management they want in order to make significant progress towards achieving company, departmental and personal goals. It is in conversations such as these that I am reminded of the words that are carved in stone on the Canongate Wall in the Scottish Parliament buildings in Edinburgh.

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

The quote is attributed to Alasdair Gray, who further admits that he actually paraphrased it from Canadian Dennis Lee’s poem titled “Civil Elegies.”

Just because you work in an environment that is frustrating doesn’t mean that you have to be frustrated. In your mind, create your ideal workplace. Identify exactly what it is that you’d like to achieve in your current role. Continue reading

Recovering from workplace setbacks

Usually when I attend conferences, it’s as a speaker.  But last week was different.  Last week I attended a conference where I was an audience member and I got to sit back and listen to a variety of speakers.  I particularly enjoyed Robyn Benincasa’s story.  Robyn is a professional adventure racer, known most for being a two-time world champion of the multi-day expedition-length Eco-Challenge.  One statement in particular that she made about her experiences caught my attention.

Pain is mandatory but suffering is optional.Pain_Suffering

Robyn was of course talking about the numerous setbacks and obstacles her four-person team faced over the course of the grueling 300 mile race.  But I found her message to be even more relevant to the workplace.  Whether it’s on the adventure race course or at work, we all know that stuff happens!  Continue reading

Focus on the present in order to achieve big things in the future

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammad Ali

So … you’re busy!  Welcome to today’s world of work – whether it’s a current crisis that needs immediate attention, a burgeoning email in-basket, phone messages waiting to be returned, preparation for this afternoon’s team meeting, or an issue summary that your manager needs by the end of the day, it seems like you’re on a never-ending treadmill with no end in sight.  And this doesn’t even take into account the long-term strategic goals you need to develop and plan and implement. What usually happens to most of us is that we spend our days dealing with the crises (the pebbles in our shoes), and it’s the important (but not urgent) things on our to-do lists that tend to slip.  Yet it’s these very things, these mountains facing us, that will lead us to long-term success, to soaring heights and new achievements. Continue reading

Have a sense of humor! It will stand you in good stead

So you’ve probably seen the latest “video-gone-viral – how professional violinist Lukas Kmit handled the situation when an errant cell phone went off during his performance. If you haven’t, take 90 seconds to do so below.

Funny, right? But what I really liked about this clip is that it demonstrates how presence of mind and a sense of humor can turn what could have been an ugly situation into something much much more pleasant. It would have been so easy for the violinist to have lost his cool; after all, “turn off your cell phones” had probably been announced several times before the concert started. But instead, he kept his wits about him and turned something bad into something great. As a result, he’s probably gotten more publicity in the last week than he got previously in his entire career!

So is there a message there for the rest of us? I think so! In our day-to-day work lives, we face a myriad of unexpected situations, many of which can be professionally devastating if we don’t respond appropriately. Two things can make such situations better:

  1. Not taking ourselves too seriously (Lukas Kmit didn’t)
  2. Giving ourselves permission to improvise (Lukas Kmit certainly did)

Can you think of situations at work where doing these two things could have (or did) make the outcome better? Do share!