with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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Welcome to the second episode in our 2019 Winter Wisdom Series: a collection of the best of the best from our first 128 episodes of The Inner Chief podcast.

Last week we looked at the Top 5 Reads, as recommended by our Chiefs & Gurus. Hope you’ve all added them to your reading list or your devices!

This week we’ve compiled all of the advice from our Chiefs & Gurus around what to do when you become stuck. So we’re going to cover 3 Steps for Getting Unstuck and 4 Key Considerations when going through the process.

How do you know when you’re stuck? What action should you take? And who should you turn to?

Maybe this is you right now or you can see someone that you care about is in this situation.

You’re unsure about your next career move, feeling stalled, not satisfied or you’re no longer making an impact in your work. Or maybe you’re just unsure about what to do next.

Well, I’ve asked more than 50 CEOs what to do when you get stuck and here's what they had to say. 

Step 1: Identifying that you’re stuck and why

This sounds easy, but so often people simply avoid it. I call it the Valley of Despair – a rut in your career or life. Sometimes it seems easier just to stay there and ride it out. But what if that ends up being for the rest of your working life? That could be another 40 years!

So, firstly, acknowledge that you’re stuck. But don’t accept the Valley of Despair.

Here's what our chiefs and gurus had to say about this part of the process, starting with Co-Founder of The Real Estate Stylist, Sara Chamberlain:

“I think we get stuck in going through the motions rather than feeling the emotions, and we end up getting into a rut. We stop looking for things that we actually fundamentally enjoy and being grateful for the things that are already fantastic in what we have around us.

“I think we have an oversaturated advertising market where we now look to the ideals on television and the ideals in an advertising culture, not only for our consumer purchases, but what our life should be. We spend too much time comparing ourselves to others. So the questions that they need to ask themselves is, who are they and what is it that makes them happy in their life already?

“Those types of questions you can sit around and have a look at, literally in front of you. That could be your family, that could be your health, that could be the great group of mates that you have down at the local sporting team that you're a part of. Those sorts of things you can already be grateful for and you can appreciate that they are there.

“You can't ever rush the process. If you're looking for a next challenge, you need to ask yourself what are the things you really enjoy, and what is it that you would like to become better at, or know more of, or that you would adapt your current skillset to in a way that you could go back to the old fashion achieving goals.

“We sort of stopped learning, we're not striving for anything new, and we pretend that we only know what we learn in the HSC or the High School Certificate or whatever you call it now, because we've finished learning anything new. The questions that they need to run through their mind, and it's a really important question, because the flow on and the fall out of that is general happiness, and financial security and happiness with their partners and their families and these units that are all the foundation start to become shaky because people basically get a little bit bored.

“The way that you overcome boredom is start setting yourself some goals again. Start looking at some of the things that you actually enjoy. When you're not at work, what are some things that get you interested? Are you listening to podcasts around a particular subject? Is there something in a meeting at work that comes up that makes you think, “I'd like to know a little bit more about that?” Is there somebody in another sector in your business that is doing something that you actually end up talking about in the pub?

“They might be some of the things that you can explore, and you can start to ask questions around what makes me get naturally excited? What makes me want to learn more? What brings out my natural curiosity, and how do I start to go back to the old fashioned, “You know what? If I set a goal within the next three, five or six months, what would that look like and how would I go about achieving that?”

“Because we just go through every single day in the same way that everyone can drive home on their commute, and basically get home without knowing how they've done it. You get 12 months down the track and you've just done your job without necessarily applying any element of curiosity or intrigued or taking the time to investigate what kind of makes you tick all over again. That's where the vitality lies, asking the questions.”

Wow, that's really deep. But oh so true.

The CEO of InfoMedia, Jonathan Rubinsztein, had this to say:

“So if someone is stuck, I question one's motivation and I think there are three underlying aspects to motivation and this is I'll quote Daniel Pink who I like and I think his book was Motivation 2.0 (it's called Drive – ed.) but he talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose.

“And so if you're stuck, then I would suggest that often one of those three areas are areas that you're struggling with. So are you aligned to the purpose of the organisation you're working in or the business unit? Does that not resonate? Do you not have the autonomy to make decisions if you want? And if you don't have those two you can never get mastery because that will never happen.

“So to me, motivation and passion comes; if I'm not passionate about something I can never deliver. And so to me, I have worked out what and those three things absolutely align to my passion and motivation and therefore if I can kind of unbundle what about my role or my it might be even the industry I'm working in, am I not passionate about, do I not get motivated? Well, maybe I can create a purpose that aligns to that. Maybe I can create that autonomy. If I can't, then I've got to move or work out how to do it because I'll never be motivated. I'll never be passionate, and I'll never be successful then. And certainly, that's for myself.”

Step 2: Where do you want to go?

This is a critical step and it’s really important that you’re honest with yourself. Don’t just assume you have to take the next step up the ladder.

If that’s not the right move for you, don’t do it. Maybe it’s not the right time in your life. Maybe it’s not right for your personality type. Maybe there’s another alternative. Think it through and really work out where you want to go.

CEO of Water Corp, Sue Murphy, sums this up perfectly:

“I would ask them to think about why they want to move first of all. What do they want to do and why do they want to do it. I've seen a lot of technically strong people, and I'm speaking more from an engineering business or engineering construction background business. I've seen a lot of men and women who were technically very good at what they did, and who aspire to be managers and leaders for all the wrong reasons. They aspire to it because they thought it was the next step in their career or what they should do, and what they ended up being was very adequate at best, manager and leader and very frustrated because they liked to do the tasks.

“To lead and manage people it's about giving them the power and the freedom to be the best they can possibly be. If you want to actually be the best engineer in the world, then you're probably not going to be a very good manager.

“My first question would be why, why do you feel stuck and if your passion and you thrill comes out of doing the work you do, can you not try to negotiate a wider range of projects in that area or something like that to give you the satisfaction that you want because too many of us follow other people's dreams not our own.”

Step 3. How Do You Get There?

This is why people get stuck in the Valley of Despair. They skip Steps 1 & 2 and in their minds they go straight to Step 3. And it terrifies them.

“How do I do it? There’s no way I can make a change now. Oh well, I’ll just stay put.”

But if you’ve really addressed Steps 1 & 2, then Step 3 becomes easy.

A great starting point, is to talk to someone. Your boss. Your colleague. A mentor. Or even a trusted friend.

Rob Patterson of Parkins Lane said this:

“What I would suggest is I'd start with a bit of fact-finding. So, okay, I'm stalled, I'm not going anywhere. Best person to ask, assuming you've got a reasonable relationship, is your boss. Where am I at? What do I need to do more of? If you don't have a good relationship, maybe your bosses boss.

“So, that's where I'd start. Then maybe a bit of self-reflection as well, as I've found with insolvency, it wasn't right for me. Maybe if you stalled, part of the journey is to ask whether you're really enjoying what you're doing and whether it's suited to your strengths. If it is, great, but if it isn't, maybe you do need to think about where next.”
And if you know exactly where you want to go, why not talk to someone doing exactly that. If anyone can give you advice, someone who has been through this process certainly can.

Ari Galper, the World’s #1 Authority on Trust-Based Selling, gave us his insights:

“Well, I'd say, don't focus on jumping find the person who's at that level and find out what value that they need or they could use that they usually don't have right now and offer it to them. So it's not about how they can jump higher “Oh I'm stuck here, I'm stuck there.” Well that's imposing limitations on yourself. Just focus on the next one up, who's the key player there and what are their challenges and approach them with value add, how to help them with their challenges, elevator to the top right away.”

4 Key Considerations when going through this process

Ok, so we’ve covered the 3 Steps: Identifying WHY you’re stuck. Working out WHERE you want to get to. And then HOW you can get there.
It seems to me that our Chiefs & Gurus all agree on 4 Key Things:

1. Connect with your purpose and vision

I’ll leave this one to Mike Michalowicz, who tells us about what purpose and passion to him means:

“So the answer … You may have heard this a million times, sadly few act upon it. Get really real about your purpose. And here's what I found for purpose. Purpose is different than passion. I'm passionate about say playing guitar or exercising or whatever. Passion purpose is different. Passion is something that I believe the energy wanes as you do the activity.

“So if I play guitar for a half hour, an hour, I have fun, but at a certain point, I'm like, ‘Okay, I need to put this guitar down.’ Purpose to me is something that actually the compulsion for it builds as you do it. Something that you desire so much that as you do it, you want to do more. It's different than an addiction. An addiction is something that's a vice often or an escape from something you need to face. A passion gives you fulfilment as you do the process. It actually I think delivers good.

“So for me, my purpose is to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty. And so I need to be on that path. So we have to find our purpose … now finding purpose is very hard. So here's the shortcuts. If you don't know what your purpose is, I believe your purpose is simply to find your purpose. So realise it's a game of discovery.

“Second thing is I found often is rooted in trauma, and there's two types of trauma. There's capital t trauma, and small t trauma. Capital t is abuse of some sort, physical or verbal or sexual abuse or a combination thereof. Often these are accidents or something that's a very impactful moment that changes your perspective on life. And it can be very damaging. But I found sometimes there's purpose in there, to resolve that not just for ourselves, but to protect others. And there may be a calling there. Sometimes it's little t. Something that just nags away at you month after month, year after year. Maybe you're picked on in grade school over and over again, and you won't stand for that anymore. Maybe you can fix that. Or maybe there's this one thing that just nagged you. And sometimes it's a dream. It was a dream that came to you when you were a child and said, ‘I just need to do this one day,’ but it's unfulfilled. So the nagging small t now is the lack of fulfilment.

“I often believe purpose is there, and when we find it, the power of it is a relentless energy source. It's constantly pulling you forward like a magnet. I, I guess literally or figuratively, I don't know, can't stop myself from doing what I'm doing with entrepreneurship. I have to write books. I feel so called to do it because I'm on this pathway of purpose. And I believe this is true for my colleagues here. So I … We're small. We have 14 employees here. But everyone has a clear purpose.

“And by the way, purpose doesn't have to be grand either. Your purpose could simply be to get a house because I grew up, I never had a roof. We were … We lived paycheck to paycheck in rentals and stuff. I just want to own a house one day to prove that I can go to do that. And that's a powerful, extraordinary purpose. And I would argue that's no better or no worse than any other purpose. That's the purpose for that person. And once you get clear on that, it becomes relentless. And one of the people here, that … not exactly, but that is their purpose. And they're leveraging their job to achieve their outcome, and what we've done as an organisation, as a leader, I've organised the corporate goal, what we want to achieve as a corporation, to everyone's individual goals. And so there's this purpose alignment and it becomes a really powerful force.”

2. Connect with your mentors

Every guru or chief, without fail, has a mentor, if not more than one. Ram Castillo of Giant Thinkers tells us more about his:

“Finding mentors. But that is such a silver bullet because … and I've been so passionate about mentorship that I wrote my second book about it … How to Get a Mentor, which we might talk about.

“And so, it's that. It's the idea that we live in a world where we have access to these people ho have done what you ultimately want to do; and so if you're feeling stuck, slide into people's DM's, I'm pretty sure that's how we connected Greg?

“When I interviewed, myself on my podcast, I interviewed the likes of Kelly Slater, 11 times world surf champion, exactly that … I slid into his Instagram DM's. But could you imagine, even if they say no, there's going to be someone who's going to answer on some platform available, where that person's active. And if you're feeling stuck, or you really are stuck, you don't have to go at it alone. You can scope, whether it's locally or globally, someone, or a few people, who can give you a nudge into helping you see the blind spots and kind of the guesswork to succeed faster.”

3. Evolve your thinking and approach to work

You have to keep learning. Developing new skills. Sharpening your tools. If you don’t, someone else will, and that’s probably why they’re getting the promotions and not you.

Drew McLellan, CEO of AMI, had this to say about evolving your skillset:

“My guess is especially in the agency world if you've been stuck for three or four or five years, my guess is you have been sharpening your own saw. You have not been adding to your skill set, you haven't been growing, you haven't been learning and you haven't been raising your hand. I think one of the best ways to get a promotion and I think this is true in every business is when someone above you says hey who wants to fill in the blank. You raise your hand. You may not be the best at it, you might not know what you're doing but you volunteer and you try and you experiment.

“I think the best professionals are people who are willing to get out of the comfort zone, try new things and try and bring that experience of that new thing into the work that they do. I think today especially if someone has gotten stagnant or stuck it's because wherever they stopped they thought it was good enough and the truth is it was good enough on that day but it wasn't good enough the next day and it sure wasn't good enough a week later and it sure as heck isn't good enough three years or five years later.

“None of us no matter how good we are, no matter how smart we are, no matter how gifted we are, none of us can afford to be as good as we were a week ago. We've got to keep getting better and smarter and more empathetic and experimenting and I think it's one of the ways we stay curious. I think it's really hard to stay in business today if you're not curious.”

4. Have a crack! Be prepared to go sideways, broaden your experience and take a risk or two

You can’t just wait for opportunities to come knocking. You need to take a risk. Trust in yourself. And find those opportunities.

Mal Bundey of Pact Group said this:

“I think take a risk. I think that I moved into a couple of different divisions within Deloitte, as opposed to staying in the one spot. And I think there's people that want to be in tax and they see that as their calling and they love it. Then they get better and better at tax and they might do different things within the tax world.

“And then there's other people that might want to come up and learn a base in the audit field or in one of the other fields, and then move into consulting or into those other sort of multidisciplinary areas. But I think that if you get stuck in a rut somewhere, then you've also got to be prepared to actually get up and move. There's plenty of opportunities within those types of firms. And I've found in my career there's plenty of opportunities, even within the corporate environment as well.

“You've got to drive it a little bit, you've got to make sure that you understand what's available. And again it gets back to the relationships you have with the principals in the business or other partners, or whatever it might be that you can actually look to see what those opportunities are.”

And don’t just assume the obvious. The next step for you might not be the next rung in the ladder, as what Nicky Sparshott, CEO of T2 Tea, says:

Zig instead of zag actually. Sometimes you just get a wealth of knowledge.”

Is this you? Are you stuck? Or maybe you have a friend or family member who is struggling. I hope this advice and wisdom from our Chiefs & Gurus helps you in your journey. Time to get out of that Valley of Despair, and start creating the life and career that you want, find the opportunities and have a crack.

Stay epic,