Skip to content

Getting Unstuck! (#42)

The Confident Leader

The most common phrase I’ve heard as an executive coach is “I’m stuck.” It’s so common, that when people ask me what I do, I say, “I help leaders get unstuck.” This simple term is a mismatch for the complexity of the leader’s experience.

If you get stuck, draw with a different pen. Change your tools; it may free your thinking.
— Paul Arden (Creative Director and Author)

This Week’s Edition

Leaders sometimes experience moments of feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, one of five types of leadership doubt.

Clarify Your Thinking

Sarah was new to her leadership role, and some of her early decisions did not pan out well. Doubting her own ideas and anxious about failing, she was hesitant to move forward.  


“I’ve tried everything. Nothing is working,” Sarah said. “Every possible next step seems like a road to failure. I desperately want to find the path to success, but I need a guarantee it will work. At this point, I can’t afford another failure on my record.”


Sarah had spent months as a self-proclaimed deer in the headlights. She confessed to over-analyzing every new idea, vetoing it as too risky. She was secretly envious of other leaders who seemed to have great ideas that always worked out well. “Clearly, I’m missing something, and maybe I’ve peaked in my leadership. Robin, can you just tell me what to do?”


“Sarah, what’s the worst that could happen?” I asked.

 “I could lose my job. Go broke and end up losing my home and my family,” she said.

“Sarah, what’s the likelihood that this worst-case scenario would actually happen?” She thought about it for a few minutes then said,

“It’s a pretty slim chance, now that I really think about it,” she conceded.


Upon reflection, Sarah realized that her fear was irrational due to its low probability of actually happening. As a result, she changed her association with the concept of failure. This freed her to take the next step to getting unstuck.

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

With changed thinking, Sarah needed to make a decision on what to do next. To do this, Sarah needed a new idea. Sounds easy, right? It’s difficult for the leader who is experiencing the deer in the headlights doubt, because every new idea seems wrought with risk and potential failure.


Sarah was able to work through her fear of failure and follow a 3-step process for getting unstuck:


Step 1 – Source a new idea: To source a new idea, Sarah observed strategic ideas and solutions of her colleagues and peers. She brainstormed ideas with her team because sometimes the best ideas come from those who are closest to the task.


Step 2 – Test and learn: She sought to test the idea before fully committing to it. There are several ways of testing ideas such as assembling a focus group, launching a pilot program or creating a beta test environment. This test and learn process generates valuable information to understand the limitations of the idea.


Step 3 – Adjust along the way: The test and learn process helps leaders make adjustments to the idea to improve its effectiveness. Building a continuous improvement process will allow leaders to perpetually evolve the idea, thus limiting its potential failure.


Sarah’s leadership path to success was not without additional failures, but because her association with the concept of failure had changed, she was able to make decisions without getting stuck. She was unstuck! 

Boost Your Performance

The leadership road is wrought with decisions that don’t go the way we want. These failures can cast doubt leaving the leader wondering what went wrong. Sometimes the leader is paralyzed and unable to make the next decision for fear of another failure. Learn how to break this cycle early in this week’s video.

What’s Your Opinion?

When you find yourself stuck, how do you get unstuck?  Let me know at


Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

Let’s Connect

Follow me on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.

What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

Let’s Do This!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.