There’s the old saying, “don’t fix what’s not broken.” I think many times in our organization we don’t mess with the familiar because to us, as leaders, it doesn’t seem broken, even if it is not producing the results it once did. Are you more afraid of the fall out of messing with the familiar than you are of getting mediocre results?

My mantra is this; if it’s not broken, break it. Sometimes a shake up is good, especially if we are settling into mediocrity.

We become stuck when we:

Believe things are out of our control.

'Stuck' also happens when, as individuals, we believe we’re stuck by things that are out of our control. We see ourselves as victims, which is deadly to progressing forward. The language of victims is excuses. When we start making excuses for the way things are, we are in trouble, because excuses strip our power to change. 

“Excuses are not compatible with excellence”.It follows that when we settle for average, we sacrifice excellence on the alter of our excuses.  We have to eliminate the excuses. Then we will take the power back to do something about our situation.  I try to evaluate myself in my reflective time and ask myself “where am I making excuses?” It’s painful, but empowering at the same time. When I address my excuses, I take the power back to change.

Tolerate Unhappiness

Sometimes we get stuck because we went down the wrong road and haven’t taken the action needed to turn ourselves around. Maybe, because we’ve learned to tolerate the unhappiness and lack of fulfillment.But in our heart of hearts, we know this road is a dead-end.20 years down the wrong road isn’t easy to reverse over night.It is a process. It begins with becoming greatly dissatisfied with the status quo or with where you are at right now. When that dissatisfaction is stronger than your comfortability, you have a strong enough “why” to see yourself through the pain of making a change. Part of that pain is admitting we’re wrong, or made a mistake.

Then you have to take a serious look in the mirror and make the decision to change yourself first, pushing yourself to learn how others are doing what needs to be done. Because you first need to see a mental picture of what could be, and a develop a passion for what it must be before you can move ahead, to make it be.

Chose the Wrong People to Lead

In addition to going down the wrong road, as CEOs, managers or pastors sometimes get stuck because we’ve chosen the wrong people to lead. Then what? Do we move people around?Do we trade players?Do we cut players?How do you assess whether or not you have the wrong people on the bus?

We always need to be in constant evaluation mode. To me, the best teacher on this subject is Jack Welch. He called the process of people evaluation, "differentiation". He says, you need a clear vision for your people to follow and then you evaluate them discerning your top 20%, your middle 70%, and your bottom 10%. Once you identify this, you empower your top 20%, you move around and challenge your middle 70%, with a mandate to make them a part of your top 20, and then you need to remove your bottom 10%.  And I know that seems harsh, but I have found your bottom 10% are just as frustrated as you, and many times it is a relief to them as much as it is to you, as the leader. It’s better than holding back that 10% from where they will be fulfilled. 

Lose Momentum or Trust

'Stuck' may be the result of a planning cycle for change that takes too long, or we grow tired of making the necessary course corrections. This version of 'Stuck' hits all of us, as companies or churches. We lose momentum and even trust, because everyone expects the leader to paint a future that doesn’t need tweaking.

One of the reasons we have a culture code that states “we make it better” is because we are creating a culture where we are always tweaking. That takes away the expectation from people that the leadership will paint a future that doesn’t need tweaking. Tweaking keeps everyone on the edge of change.Timing is critical in tweaking.Wait too long, and you lose momentum. So you have to have a season every year where you do the most tweaking. For us, we have created a habit of tweaking our systems every summer. This has included moving staff around to become more efficient as we grow and reach our capacity. This habit has become almost addictive for our team and they look forward to it. So, I think as a leader you have to create a culture of constant change and adjustments so that you and your people aren’t afraid of change.We’re always looking for ways — together — to make things better.

Don't Assign Responsibility and Authority for a Project

'Stuck' maybe the consequence of not handing off a great idea to those who's can collaborate and implement it. 'Stuck' may also happen when the finished new idea or project doesn’t get integrated into the overall system of the organization.  

Leaders need to see projects from the perspective of the one they’ve assigned them to.  You have to make sure that when you give the responsibility of a project to someone on your team you also give them the authority to make it happen. Having responsibility without authority is extremely frustrating.

When we delegate something to our teams, we need to make sure they not only have the authority to get it done, but the tools they need to do so.  We also have to make sure that their project fits into the big picture and that the fit is communicated to everyone affected. 

Add but not Subtract.

On a personal level, 'stuck' maybe the result of adding to our life but never subtracting.By that I mean we take on more and more responsibility, but never subtract from our responsibility those matters that should be re-delegated to others or deleted entirely. Therefore, we become overwhelmed.

It is important to create a regular habit of evaluating your priorities. If you are constantly reevaluating your priorities, you will soon find that you may have to lay something important down for something even more important.

A few years ago, I decided to give up coaching football. It is something I had done for 15 years and really loved doing it. But, when I evaluated my priorities I noticed the reasons I had to keep coaching were getting fewer and fewer and that I had other things that were much more important on my priority list.

Giving up something you love isn’t easy.It was tough to let go, and even tougher once the season came around and I had the itch to get back on the field. But I knew it was the right thing and I’ve kept myself pretty busy, so it’s not too bad.

Have an Entitlement Mindset

The entitlement mindset may contribute to the next kind of 'stuck'.If you’re dragging your past legacy into the present to jumpstart your future…you’re probably stuck. Building on the past in one thing, but depending on the past is another. If you’re greatest victories are in the past, then you have a focus problem. It is vital to keep focusing forward and to keep growing and challenging yourself to the greater things ahead rather than dwelling on the past failures or victories.

Tradition Become More Important than Mission

Stuck happens to churches and organizations because they fall more in love with their tradition than their mission.This is a part of human nature and so we are all susceptible to this temptation. A great example of this is in John 9 when Jesus healed a blind man and the religious leaders of the day freaked out because He healed him on the Sabbath. They were so stuck in their traditions that they overlooked the fact that a man that was born blind could now suddenly see! We all must be careful that we don’t get so focused on tradition and rules that we miss the point of the whole thing.

Don't Limit Yourself

On a more individual ministry thought, we limit God by dictating to Him what He can and cannot do in our lives.This includes our careers and ministries.We need to give God “wiggle” room.Jesus said we would have to surrender every day. I think it is important to start each day with Joshua’s attitude of “what are my orders?” kind of prayer, like he prayed in Joshua 5 instead of “bless what I’m doing” kind of prayers that we more typically pray. One is a prayer of surrender and gives God all of the “wiggle” room He needs, the other boxes Him into our agenda which I’m sure He finds very limiting.

We get stuck doing what we know we can do.It’s risky to step out into unfamiliar territory but it may be more risky to stay put in the familiar and predictability of the existing territory.

You have to be confident enough to surround yourself with people better than you are or with those who have gone further than you. Listen to them, read about them, visit them, do whatever it takes to stretch your ability to learn.

You need to be willing to take a leap of faith, try something daring and bigger than you and learn on the way down.

Employ Old Mindsets

'Stuck' for business leaders or pastors is often the result of“staying put” too long in the same old mindsets intellectually, spiritually or emotionally. Being a life time learner is usually our antidote for getting out of old thinking, but being a life time learner can be a too low-key approach.While I don’t think taking that fast route is always the best, but there are a few things you can do.

One, is quit what you are currently doing and take a risk by trying something new. The second, is hire someone much younger than you into a prominent role on your team. The next generation always thinks differently than you do and so you can get jolted pretty quick out of your current state of thinking by surrounding yourself with younger leaders. And by the way, when I say younger, the next generation of thinking comes from those 15 years younger than you.

Blindly Follow Popular Opinion

Popular opinion may cause us to get stuck especially if that popular opinion is from others who are stuck. When everyone is saying things like:“this is a bad idea you’re having” or “you’re lucky to have the job and opportunities you have” or “why don’t you just stay at your current job?” These popular opinions have to be conquered before one can move on.Well meaning people may have some very limiting opinions of your future.

To move beyond we must clear our minds to gather purpose-driven opinions, rather than just popular opinions. Ask risk takers, not those who are also stuck.

So to recap, to avoid being stuck:

  1. Eliminate excuses.

  2. Become dissatisfied with the status quo.

  3. Evaluate everything.

  4. Create a culture of change.

  5. Delegate properly.

  6. Add AND subtract in your life.

  7. Focus forward.

  8. Love the mission more than the tradition.

  9. Take a leap of faith.

  10. Surround yourself with those who think differently.

  11. Look for purpose-driven opinions, not just popular opinions

Step out. Evaluate. Risk. Mess with the familiar. Don't blindly follow popular opinion. Most importantly ask God what you should do. He’s the biggest encourager of risk taking I know! And when you ask God, the sweet spot is when you have peace in your heart and panic in your head. That’s where God likes us living the most, because then we are totally reliant on Him and then in our surrender He has all of the wiggle room to do what only He can do. That where we get supernatural results. And we need supernatural results.

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