Leadership: Help, I’m Drowning!

Check out this video (no, I’m not sending you to a North Korean identify theft site).

In case the link above breaks, let me describe this. A child hangs desperately onto a rope in moving water, screaming for dear life! It looks as if he’ll drown if he lets go. Then a larger child walks over and calmly sets the child on his feet, because the water is only up to his waist. 

It often feels like this when the ability to change is right in front of us if we’d only do something different or get help.

This sounds like I’m about to delve into the world of depression or psychotherapy, but I’m talking about executive behavior, not suicidal thought.

When you’re stuck, there’s frequently another way. Often a path that you cannot come up with given your current thought process. Often a path that requires outside help or a different way of framing the issue.

Sometimes we just have to let go of the metaphorical rope and see what happens (it helps if you can swim!). Fear causes us to refuse to look at some viable alternatives. 

My wife and I did some inadvertent canyoneering last year (what we thought was a strenuous hike turned into some scrambling, swimming and climbing). At one point in our descent, we hit a tough spot. A rope hung over a ledge, but I couldn’t get a good look at the bottom (OK, part of the story is that I hate heights!). As I scrambled around looking for an out, my wife calmly climbed over the edge and found bottom a few yards away. If she hadn’t, I might still be looking for an easy way out (by the way, it was perhaps one of the most fun outdoor adventures we ever had)!

When you hit that tough spot, consider doing one of the following:

  • Ask for help. Get your ego out of the way.
  • Try to reframe the issue. Is it a problem or an opportunity? If you were (pick one of your business heroes), what would you do?
  • Take a break and come back to the problem (surely you have another crisis waiting for you!).
  • Consider whether you know the answer and are creating self-limiting thoughts to prevent you from success. Get your Nikes on and Just Do It!

Who would’ve thought that standing up to a problem was this easy?!

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  • Paul

    5:19 am June 5, 2018

    Todd, I really enjoyed this blog. I can think of any number of situations where the options looked few and the apparent outcomes appeared bleak. Yet, a simpler and different approach was in order. What I have found both interesting and energizing is reaching out to a trusted colleague or a coach to kick around the situation. The hardest part of doing so is placing one’s ego on the shelf to make that call.

    Really appreciate your post.

    • Todd Ordal

      5:44 am June 5, 2018

      Thanks, Paul. I agree. The same mindset that got you down a dark alley sometimes can’t get you out! (I think that I stole that from Einstein, but he said it better!)