ASTD Big Question: Am I still stuck?

Posted by gminks in big question | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wow! This month the ASTD Big Question is about a blog post I wrote back in December! The post was called “I think grad school is making me crazy“.

Basically, I was venting my frustration about learning new ways of doing things while being in a role where I can’t implement change (it did not help that I was participating in the CCK08 experiment at the same time).

So here is the Big Question:

  • Do you sometimes feel stuck? Feel like you have so many more ideas about how you could help your organization or your clients, but that What Clients Want is just some training?
  • Should you attempt to get unstuck? How hard should you push your internal or external clients to get them to see the full range of what is possible? Or should you give them what they ask for?
  • If you are feeling some level of stuck, what should you do to get unstuck? How important is it to get unstuck? Is it okay to learn a lot about all kinds of different solutions, but to primarily work on simple training solutions?
  • If you are stuck, should you be concerned about your future?

The questions were based on this comment in my post:

I feel I’m going to be stuck doing the same thing forever with all these cool ideas in my head that will never get implemented.

So let me start by putting that post into perspective. I wrote it during finals, and at the end of a pretty rough quarter at work (the next quarter was even worse!). I’m lucky to have very good mentors, as well as a very stable and nurturing home life, and those things help me get over my angsty times.

I’m a little nervous that I am writing this post in the middle of a hectic quarter, also during finals.  I’m hoping this one sounds a bit more positive. 🙂

What I have learned is that there are always options to get unstuck, its just a matter of how you want to deal with it.

Option 1: Suck it up

Sometimes you just have to just suck it up. Sometimes the reasons you are stuck have nothing to do with you. Decisions are made for you, and if you want to keep getting a paycheck then you just have to keep doing things the way you are told to do them, even if that makes you feel stuck.

Option 2: Complain & make your points well known

Maybe you are stuck and you just can’t take it anymore. You know you have good ideas that would save resources if they were only given a chance. So you take matters into your own hands and try to force management to listen to you. When they tell you to suck it up, you complain to everyone around you all the time about how unfair management is.

This is not a recommended option unless you have other means of income than your current position. Also, this option has a way of alienating everyone, from your manager to your peers. It also tends to make you feel even more miserable.

Option 3: Figure out why you are stuck

Another option is to figure out why you can’t get your ideas implemented. This option can be used in conjunction with Option 1. Start talking with your manager, your mentors, and others who have been around longer to try and find out the answers to these questions:

  • Is this a bad time to talk about change? Why?
  • Is there someone in management who will champion your idea? Do you have or can you form a relationship with that person?
  • Is your idea really that new? Have others tried it before? If so, what was the reason it was not adopted?
  • Has there been some system change since people last tried to implement this idea? Can you show why those changes make this the right time to try the idea?
  • Can you let go of the ownership of the idea? If implementing the idea gets you unstuck, does it matter who gets credit for it?

    This is actually a statement about how you deal with power, and I’ve found its pretty important. Lots of my “innovative” ideas have been around forever. I don’t “own” these ideas, I’m just their latest conduit. Times have changed, and it may be that now is the time to try the ideas again. However, once the idea is out there, there isn’t a guarantee I’ll get credit for it. I’m ok with that because it gets me unstuck (well a little credit every now and again would be nice).

Once you figure out the why, usually you can identify who in the organization needs to be influenced so that your ideas a chance to happen. Once you know who to influence, you have to know what their hot buttons are. If you can figure out a gap someone needs to close, and your idea can close the gap, then you have a greater chance to get your idea implemented (and get yourself unstuck). If the gap has to do with making or saving money, your idea has an even better chance of being considered.

Even if they don’t accept your idea, going through this process will help you learn alot about your organization, and that is important too. The more you understand how your business unit operates, the more ammunition you’ll have for figuring out how to get your next idea implemented. At this point, you have to be willing to sit at Option 1 for a while.

So am I still stuck?

Yes and no. Yes because I still have tons of ideas in my head that I cannot implement at the current time. No because a couple of my ideas are starting to get some traction.

I’ve looked at the process of getting unstuck as an excercise in professional development. I’ve learned the following in the last six months:

  • How to look at things from a systems viewpoint. I’ve learned how to find out if my idea is really not a good fit for my current organization. I feel like this skill will be helpful in any position I find myself in, so I appreciate the fact that I have been forced to work this way.
  • How to pitch ideas to upper management. This is definitely a skill, and I am happy I’ve had the opportunity to practice (a lot)
  • How to be patient. Truth be told, I lean towards Option 2. However, I know I have to frame my ideas appropriately for others to listen to me. I know I have to figure out how my ideas can fit with my organziation’s charter. I also know that I have to be positive and encouraging to my team mates. What good is an idea unless it helps everyone out? And who is going to want to work with someone who is negative all the time?

There are some really great answers from the comments section of the ASTD Big Question as well, so make sure to check those out.

The biggest thing I have learned is to be thankful for the lessons presented to me, it makes me a better learning professional.

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