“It is always my choice: to change what I cannot tolerate, or tolerate what I cannot—or will not—change.” –Melinda M. Marshall
“If only…”—you fill in the blank. It is a frequent comment I hear from clients as they are engaged in our Situational Self Leadership workshops:
- If only my manager would take this training (or would apply it) …
- If only my organization supported this …
- If only I had more time …
- If only …
The first time I hear any sort of “if only” remark in a workshop, I stop and introduce the concept of choice. We all have choices, no matter what our circumstances. The challenge is acting on those choices.
For example, imagine you are feeling oppressed by a micro-manager. (Maybe you don’t need to imagine too hard.) What are your options? I believe Self Leaders—people who proactively take responsibility for getting what they need to succeed at work—look at three options that are always available:
1. Influence. What can you do to influence your manager to provide a leadership style that matches your development level on your goals and tasks? First, communicate your status on a regular basis so your manager doesn’t feel the need to micro-manage. If that does not work, have a direct, respectful conversation where you ask for the leadership style you need.
Remember—in the end, managers have the choice to be influenced or not. That leads to our second option.
2. Accept. Acceptance means we give up the right to moan, groan, or complain to others. Acceptance means “I am willing to let this go – for now.” It does not need to be a permanent choice, but for now, you are willing to accept being micromanaged because you love your work, the people you work with, your paycheck, etc.
A warning: Acceptance of a less-than-tolerable work situation is difficult to sustain, especially for a long period of time. At some point you may try to influence again. If that doesn’t work, you may have to resort to the third option.
3. Remove. No, you cannot remove your manager—all you can remove is yourself. This means you make a choice to leave the team or the organization.
Don’t choose to be stuck
When we refuse to choose from these options, we are actually making another choice: to be stuck. Many people don’t recognize that being stuck is a choice we make, not a circumstance we are put in. It means we are unwilling to pay the price to either influence, accept, or remove. What happens when we are stuck? Not only are we miserable, but we bring everyone around us down with us—our team, our friends, our family.
The foundation of Self Leadership is to take responsibility for our lives and our choices. I encourage each of you to get unstuck and choose your response to your circumstances.