Five Powerful Actions When Leaders Feel Stuck in a Ditch

When coaching leaders on what they are longing for or presenting a leadership workshop on change, emotions often run high. Many leaders are often unprepared when their team or organization decide to pursue a new direction, or their boss resigns. It seems as if they are moving along in a purposeful way, performing at a high level and then, bam, the landscape changes. The work world they had grown accustomed to no longer exists. Everything feels different and leading through the unexpected pivot can weigh heavily on their shoulders. Some of the emotional insights I’ve heard include:

“I feel blindsided and totally unprepared.”

“I am so angry that no one told us about this change sooner.”

“I love my job and team. I am not ready for these new moves.”

“This is not going to work for me because I never saw myself involved with this type of work.”

Before I begin to unpack what the leader really wants, I share a visual that is a springing off point for our conversation.

Think of the timeline of your career. I draw the visual with my finger like this:


I share that this change is simply a blip, just like the blips you experienced in the past as well as the changes you will face in the future.

 Usually what comes next is a sigh of relief and perspective.

All leaders face these blips along their career trajectories. The opportunity comes in when they flip their fears for possibilities.

Here are five ways to lead when you are stuck in a ditch:

1. Survey The Depth Of The Ditch

A beginning place to start in evaluating how to lead through a blip, is understanding how the change impacts you. Step inside the space and assess what is important about your new situation. Establish an honest and clear view of what you are actually experiencing and feeling. You might even consider a SWOT assessment. Coaching leaders through these blips I’ve noticed that the reality is often way less impactful than the fear of change.

2. Identify Several Possibilities Forward

Once your analysis is finished, it is time to consider different pivots or perspectives to deal with the change. There are many ways to go about tackling a blip and no one size fits all. I have found brainstorming a helpful strategy to get everything out on the table. It’s the time to be creative and outlandish. Brainstorm with yourself first as you know what is best. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • What is most upsetting or challenging about this new situation?
  • What is familiar about this blip compared to past blips?
  • What is here for me now?
  • What do I really want?
  • How could I make this work without sacrificing my values?

3. Consult Your Advisory Council

When a leader is facing a blip, there is nothing more helpful than having a group of trusted advisors to consult. This council can be comprised of current or past bosses or colleagues, mentors or even connecting with a coach. Sometimes a leader may want to find someone in their field of interest to speak with. It doesn’t matter who a leader chooses. What’s important is that they trust the individual to have their back.

4. Choose The Opportunity That Ignites You

This step is the fun one for leaders. It really comes down to finalizing the choices you came up with during the brainstorming session. Narrowing down the best option can take a little time. Remember, there may be more than one great opportunity so align your decision with your leadership:

  • Values
  • Vision
  • Growth
  • Joy

5. Create The Plan and Actions

The final way to lead yourself out of the ditch is to design a plan of action that includes SMART goals, timeframes and any other objectives to make your opportunity come alive. Clarity and conciseness are key in executing the plan. Don’t forget to include an abundance of exciting goals that bring you joy as well as stretch your leadership. Commit to the possibilities you have selected.

How have you led yourself out of a ditch to shine?

Related: What’s Great About Returning to the Office?