The four reasons why people get stuck

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In my most recent Monday Morning Minute, I expressed my deep frustration with having to spend four months replacing the front door of my house. This makes no sense to me since it only took two months to remodel my kitchen!

In addition to hearing horror stories about home improvement projects gone amok, I also heard from readers who asked me to expand on why some leaders, teams and or organizations get and or remain stuck. I’m happy to do so.

There are four primary reasons why people either get or stay stuck – two of them I’m posting today and the remaining two tomorrow.

1. Indifference:
Indifference is best characterized by a lack of caring. People who are indifferent recognize that a project, task or issue needs to be addressed, but don’t see any value or importance in doing so. Indifference can be caused by limited resources and or time, both of which are understandable and can be addressed.

But when indifference creeps into your customer interactions as it has with three out of the five contractors working on my front door, then as Tom Hanks said in Apollo 13, “Mission control, we have a problem.”

Indifference is rooted in prioritization, and prioritization is influenced by what’s important to you. If, as a leader you believe it’s a priority to spend time with employees enabling them to feel engaged and excited about making a difference in their customers life, you will prioritize your time accordingly. If on the other hand that’s not a priority, you devote your time to other areas. In my case, my contractors are indifferent to me because they see our door as a small project and less important than other larger projects. Is this understandable? Yes. Is it building trust, respect and a pipeline of referrals? No.

Spending time with people who are indifferent takes energy, so the best strategy I’ve found for dealing with indifference is benign neglect…simply minimize the amount of time you spend with people who are indifferent. If you don’t their indifference plants mustard seed sized seeds of indifference in your own imagination. Guard against this at all costs.

Aside to reader: This can be the most frustrating of the four reasons why people remain stuck for you to deal with. While you undoubtedly have high hopes and aspirations for your work and personal life, you have to learn to be more discerning about what’s most important to you and the company you choose to keep.

2. Ignorance:
Ignorance is characterized as either not knowing “how” to do something (which can be corrected with education or training) or its cousin, a lack of knowledge regarding the consequences or impact of a decision (which can be corrected with greater awareness). In either case ignorance is not a crime, but it does cause unnecessary frustration and eventually customer dissatisfaction or defection.

We all know or have worked with someone who claims ignorance and uses it as a form of manipulation. We also know or have worked with someone who uses ignorance as a way of avoiding responsibility. In both cases, people who use ignorance as a crutch end up allowing one person to over-function (typically you) and another person to under-fuction (typically them). In the real world this is called dysfunctional.

Let me give the benefit of the doubt to the vast majority of people you and I work with. Most people want to do good work and they want to make a difference. What they also want is to be coached and or mentored and to get better at what they do. For most people they recognize that they have a blind spot and are open to replacing their ignorance with inspired performance.

Aside to reader: While ignorance is not a crime, remaining intellectually complacent is a career limiting move that also is the death knell for all of your important relationships. Remaining vibrant and engaged requires the courageousness to think bigger and the curiosity to question your assumptions.

Here are two questions for you:
1. Which of the above two reasons do you deal with the most?
2. Which of the above two reasons do your direct reports deal with the most?

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