So there you are barreling down the highway following the plan you and your team spent months creating. It should be paying off. It isn't...well, it is showing some signs of life despite a growing number of roadblocks and unanticipated detours. While you have managed to scramble and figure out a way past those obstacles, you are getting the sneaking feeling that you may be in the wrong lane or even worse the wrong direction. Or perhaps, there is a better person who should be at the wheel and different passengers taking the ride with you. The point is, what you're currently doing isn't producing the outcomes or momentum you need to generate. This applies when you’re a decision-maker of an initiative, or project as much as it does when you’re in a role or when you’re seeking your next role. When seeking employment, it can be helpful to step back and look at what you’ve been doing. Are the results from your actions and mindset paying off or is the response you’re getting trying to tell you to take the next exit and regroup?
Enter "the theory of sunk costs". This is a potential mind trap that basically says: "Well, I've invested X money, time, effort and resources that I'll never recoup if I give up now. If we can just stay the course a little longer, it will pay off." Another voice which is backed by many motivational quotes like: "Never quit." or "Quitting is for losers." also contributes to continuing down a path that is clearly not working. Sometimes, you do have to hang in there. Other times, not so much. The losses just pile up like a multi-car collision. Ugly. Very ugly. The payoff just doesn't happen. I'm here to suggest that NOT quitting can make you lose big time and in unrecoverable ways.
You see, sometimes the wisest, most courageous thing you can do is quit. It doesn't make you a quitter. It makes you a mature, confident, smart, business person. Sometimes, you must cut your losses as quickly as possible, press pause, redirect your thinking and create a new plan of action. Even better, before you invest time and energy in creating a new plan, I would suggest investing time in first, asking the right questions. Like the Why, What If and How Could We/I type questions. A post for another time.
Why are we doing this? What do we hope to accomplish? What is most important about our goal? What is most important about the way in which we reach it? How could we begin to make inroads? By asking questions first, you ensure that you are trying to solve the right problem. You are ensuring that your solution is calibrated to the right metrics and overarching strategies. With the speed of business today, it is easy to just be focused on getting it done. Doing that can sometimes have you spending a lot of time, resources and energy solving the wrong problem...or just a symptom and not the root issue. We can speed past the important consideration of "Why are we doing this?"
There is a higher value being placed these days on executives who ask the right questions in time rather than having all the answers. That's because Why questions help us to understand the driving force behind what we are really trying to accomplish and establish clarity around the purpose of making investments. Flexibility, along with adaptability and open-mindedness, are some of the key qualities critically needed in executive leaders today as a PwC CEO global study showed. Powerful questions open our minds to other possibilities we don't always see. These questions invite other perspectives that shed light on ideas missed by our blind spots. Powerful questions challenge our assumptions that we've held on to for years. Powerful questions help us stay aligned with the shifting global marketplace and societal environment. And yes, sometimes these questions can be inconvenient and lead to answers that are equally inconvenient. I will ask you to consider whether you have challenges going on right now that are very inconvenient so why stay the course? Why not ask some questions about the road you're on? By the way, there's a bonus in embracing the power of questions that produces something else vital to creating vibrant teams and profitable, sustainable cultures: They grow better thinkers who make better decisions and drive innovation. If you’re job-seeking these questions can get you re-aligned with where you should be searching and how you should be doing it.
So sometimes, you gotta take a deep breath, turn the wheel and take the next exit. Then, pull over and rethink your approach from the big picture/purpose perspective. Ask questions. Create possibilities. Hone in on a new solution, get the right passengers on board, and then pop the clutch and merge with the superhighway of life to continue your drive toward achieving your success.
Karla Robertson is a Professional Certified Coach, speaker and Founder of Shifting Gears® Executive Coaching based in NJ. As The Executive’s NeuroCoach, Karla works with senior executives who consistently define her candor, humor, directness as the hallmarks of her approach. Karla blends neuroscience with coaching methodology and business experience, challenges their thinking to advance their career and leadership effectiveness. This approach develops a more agile mind and sharpens their ability to make better decisions, build better teams and drive better outcomes. Karla is the published author of The Agile-Minded Executive: Drive Better Results by Shifting How You Think, and is a keynote speaker on the topic of developing an agile mind to adapt and flow with today’s relentlessly shifting landscape.