I have respect for the legitimate level of stress employees at every level encounter when confronting obstacles in their pursuit of achieving their objectives. It’s not an issue of skill or will sometimes as it is juggling priorities or using up the equity in their work relationships. What I hear is their comments that dwell in the muck of what they can’t do. The obstacles have them beat and getting out of the way will cause collateral damage. So the question I often ask is what do you have control over? Rather than focusing on what you can’t do, what can you do? Igniting a sense of empowerment will eventually develop a new pattern of thinking so that they can take a deeper sense of responsibility for solving the bigger problems they face.
The problem is acting on empowerment is sometimes hard to do. Vocalizing complaints to others is a sign that they are not progressing out of what or who holds them back. Focusing on the variable that represents their “prosecutor” accomplishes one direct outcome; it transfers the power onto the opposing force. Dwelling in the place of why they can’t do things honors the prosecutor. Placing hope in a person or variable that will rescue them from oppression is another indicator or the powerlessness felt.
Standing back from this for a minute; it’s clear that some problems are indeed oppressive. There isn’t a clear strategy to get out from underneath it all. But what does that mean? In situations like these, most of the controllable options relate to ourselves: our reactions, our sense of purpose, our ability to choose. And with those variables in mind, what could you see yourself doing that could make a crummy situation better? If it was better, what would you see yourself doing or hear yourself saying? As Executive Coach, Marshall Goldsmith often repeats in his book “What got You Here Won’t Get You There”, what would you need to stop doing? So if you were to take action on claiming the power you actually possess what would you have to start doing to make the situation better? Even in the crummiest of situations, there are always productive levers to manipulate even if it is an attitude adjustment. In what way does this dynamic hold true for you?