Leadership Liberation: Escape the Stuck and Achieve Breakthroughs

Many years ago, as a young manager in a rapidly growing business, I got stuck in the suck.  The days were long, the stress was high, and the burnout was real. My team and I were working hard, but it didn’t seem like we could catch a gear.  Everything felt like wack-a-mole. Nothing we were doing was helping us achieve breakthroughs for the business. The feeling of being stuck was so intense that I started to retreat.  The only escape was fantasizing about quitting that job and finding a new one.  But I loved my team and the company. I knew I couldn’t just abandon them.

Leadership Liberation: Escape the Stuck and Achieve Breakthrougha

As I readied myself to eject, I devised a plan to leave my team and the company in the best shape possible. My team and I got together and brainstormed our current situation and where we wanted to be in 12 months, being clear about barriers that might get in our way — we had clarity and direction. We identified vendor partners and people within our department that needed to be addressed — we began working on building a stronger internal and external team. I started teaching people on my team all the things they needed to know to survive and thrive after I left. I stopped falling on grenades for my team so they could build resilience for the tougher problems and people I was protecting them from. Without realizing it, I was doing what Gino Wickman, the author of Traction, calls delegating to elevate. I thought my team would hate me for offloading work and problems to them, but they loved the challenge and growth that came from tougher assignments.

Then, something funny happened. I started feeling liberated from the suck, and our team started having breakthroughs. My boss was happier with me and my team, I was happier with my job, and the team was happier with their growth and performance. I went on to keep that job for another five or so years, and many of the people who worked on my team then continued to grow in their own careers.

I share this story because almost every leader who reaches out to me at Consult to Grow® feels stuck and wants to achieve some kind of breakthrough. No matter the business or the type of leader, the same steps apply to unshackling yourself from working in the business and achieving breakthroughs by working on the business.

Achieve liberation as a leader in 8 steps

8 Steps to Escape the Stuck and Achieve Breakthroughs

Rather than survive, I want you to thrive. This post is about liberating you as a leader.  Here are eight ways you can escape the stuck and achieve breakthroughs no matter your position:

Are you checked in to your work with your team?  

On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being completely checked out and 10 being completely checked in), how checked in to your organization are you? What steps can you take to get more checked in? When you get stuck in the suck, it’s easy to get depressed and checked out. To check in, you have to take care of yourself.  None of the advice below can help you if you’re not putting your self-care first. Be sure you’re finding time to exercise, nurture yourself, connect with people who support you outside of work, sleep well, and get into healthy routines for you.

Do you and your team know and use a vision, mission and values?

One of the most common roadblocks in achieving breakthroughs is the lack of clarity and alignment around a clear vision, mission, and values. If you and your team aren’t clear on the where, how & why of where you’re going, how can they truly help you get there?  If your overarching vision is clear, what’s one for the next 12 months that you and your team can get clear and aligned to? How do you want your organization or department positioned?  What do you want others to say about your organization or department in 12 months? Read: How to Develop Your Vision, Values, & Mission Statement.

Do you and your team have a strategic plan to achieve your vision over the next 3-5 years?

Most people are clear about the current situation, and many are clear about their vision. Few people have identified the major items or issues that must be controlled to achieve that vision. A good strategic plan outlines the broad activities or actions that need to be completed to achieve your vision without making everything a priority. Read: Powerful, Yet Simple, Strategic Planning Secrets.

Do you and your team have an annual operating plan?

The Annual Operating Plan serves as a guide for your team’s journey over the next fiscal year. While the strategic plan is very broad, the annual plan gets much more specific on the who, what, and how of driving achievement through the coming months. Read: How to Craft an Annual Operating Plan.

Do you and your team do major quarterly check-ins?

We find most humans really struggle to think beyond 90 days. In fact, when we’re building Annual Operating Plans with teams, we really have to focus the team on planning actions beyond Q1. Given that we think in 90-day increments, we recommend having 1/2 day or day long off-site every quarter to reflect on the past 90 days and chart the course for the next 90 days. These check-ins also provide an opportunity to recalibrate the annual operating plan next information becomes available.

Do you have the right talent to complete your plans?

Many times, the size and talent of the team we’re working with don’t match the strategy and plans the leader has laid out.  One of the toughest and most important steps leaders who want to achieve a breakthrough has to take is to assess and develop their team constantly. Do you have the right people on the bus, and are they in the right seat? As you scale and grow, are the people growing with you or have they stalled and need to go? Having the wrong team means you’re going it alone. Read: How to Assess Restaurant Talent.

Are you delegating to elevate?

Does your workload never seem to lighten? Are you eating at your desk? Do you only sleep a few hours? Are you struggling to stay connected to friends and family? It’s time to delegate to elevate. You’ll never get unstuck if you don’t ask your team to carry more of the load for you. If you think you’re doing your team a favor – you’re probably not. My guess is that they are calling you a micro-manager, perfectionist, or control freak behind your back. Read: Not Enough Hours in the Day? Delegate to Elevate.

Every small step toward your vision takes you one step closer.

What’s Next

If you answered no to any of the above eight steps, take a moment to think about one thing you can do to move yourself and your team forward in the next few days. All too often, we think we either have momentum or we don’t. Instead, momentum gains energy over time like a flywheel. Every small step you take toward your vision brings you one step closer.  The more you stay focused, the quicker the pace gets.

I truly want you to have the best year of your life. I want work to be fun. I want your team to say you’re a joy to work for and to have pride in the accomplishments that come from everyone’s hard work. If I can help liberate you as a leader, help you escape the suck, and achieve breakthrough results, don’t ever hesitate to contact me.

About Consult to Grow

Need an outside facilitator, help with more detailed strategic planning, or want to host a planning retreat but don’t know where to start? Reach out to us today. Consult to Grow® is a business advisory firm focused on helping small-to-medium-sized businesses and restaurant chains improve, scale, and grow through strategy, people, systems, and processes.

Consult to Grow® provides various tools and services to help you develop people strategies to grow your team.  We can expertly assess your HR infrastructure, develop custom Employer of Choice strategies, facilitate leadership meetings and retreats, help you design bonus and incentive programs, and design managing partner programs.  Ready to get started?  

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