Sometimes the more you try to solve a problem, the more frustration and exhaustion you feel. That’s a dangerous place to be in. as much as I’ve advocated for leaning into the challenge there comes a point when that focus isn’t going to achieve results you’re looking for. Step back and recharge yourself. Either rest or switch your focus to low maintenance activity. Your subconscious mind will continue to solve the problem, you’ll see the issues and any causal factors more clearly and will identify a route through.
In a corporate environment, it can take courage to hit the stop button and step back. As an activity, it recoups your energy and allows you to check-in with others in terms of what you’re observing, what you’ve learnt and open options for moving forward. It is great leadership modelling for a fast-paced environment because so often workers persist in automatic mode and don’t always see that that persistence can cause damage.
There’s a tipping point when emotion comes into the room. Often frustration, disappointment and even anger surface when a long-standing project starts to stall. With time and investment, the sunk costs do accumulate, and the threat of loss or fear can materialise. As a leader, the best thing you can do is own that feeling rather than project onto others. It can be a useful fuel for momentum but rarely a strong tool to boost loyalty. Stay focussed on the facts, accept that outside factors may persist but get analytical and find a way around the blockage. Stay in a solution mindset.
One of the most frequent causes of project drift is an inability to set clear project goals at the outset. I’ve seen many projects, especially technology projects, take on a life of their own. The team around implementation become so focussed on that one solution or that one path and become myopic to options. Sometimes you reach a dead end.
As a leader, this is a crucial time to remind the team of the long-term goal and to open options that will realise that goal. Project methodologies like agile help to reinforce this through regular sprints and evaluation from the outset to avoid change becoming an endurance sport. That sense of energy can be built into any strategic effort. There are always smaller incremental steps that can be taken when longer-term change feels impossible. The same is true for life goals, in the face of fear, one of the most empowering steps you can take is any small step to move forward. The minimum viable step is often enough to rebuild momentum, confidence, and learning. Small progress is still progress.