24 January 2009

Some People see Roadblocks -- Others see Hurdles...

Did you ever notice that some people seem to see a problem as a roadblock and they just stop! They don't search for a solution, but they see it as a stop sign, instead of a yield sign. Then there are others who encounter a problem but rather than a roadblock, they see it as a hurdle to be overcome. It hinders them for a time, but they search for solutions and work to get over it.

What is a roadblock and how can we work towards a solution rather than come to a full stop?

A roadblock in the office is a problem that comes up and on first glance makes you think you are not going to be able to move forward. You may stop and feel you can't go any further, but is it really a roadblock? Have you searched for alternative answers or solutions? Have you spoken to your colleagues and brainstormed to try and find a solution? Is the clock on the wall deciding how much effort you will put into finding an answer? Or do you just not want to try? I have found that in most situations there is usually a way around it.

Why not start looking at your roadblock as a hurdle instead? You can see a hurdle in front of you, but you immediately start to look for ways around it or over it. You should view it as a momentary setback to be overcome.

If you have ever watched athletes in the Olympics run and jump over hurdles, it almost seems impossible as they are going so fast with what I think are rather high obstacles in front of them. They encounter the hurdle, but rather than stop, they keep going and without missing a beat, jump over it. If they thought about the hurdle and how high it was and how close together they were, that would be enough to send them running the other way, but they don't look at the obstacles in their way, they just see the finish line and consider what they will need to do to get there.

We can sometimes encounter situations in the office that are like that. We have a task that we need to finish and someone tells us it can't be done or there is no way that we will be able to accomplish it. It may seem like a roadblock, but is it really? Are you looking at the obstacle or at the finish line? There is usually an answer if you look for it or speak to others on your team or in your network of acquaintances.

This can work for the simplest problems or for larger ones.

  • The Pot Hole: Sometimes small problems can seem bigger than they really are. Do you have to get a courier out the door, but have missed the last courier run? Rather than letting this stop you, look at your options. There are always courier depots where you can go to drop off your package and it will still make the delivery deadline. On occasion I have jumped in a taxi and made the delivery myself. Many small things like this can be handled with a little creativity and shouldn't stop production.
  • The Speed Trap: Are you struggling to meet a deadline? Sometimes deadlines are exaggerated and if you talk to your boss you may find that the real deadline is further out, but if it can't be moved, why not look to your team members for help? Is there someone you can ask for assistance that can help you get the job done on time? Sometimes we feel we have to do everything ourselves, but there can be alternatives if we ask.
  • The Detour: Have you made a mistake and think that it is the end of the road for you? If it is with an outside contact, a phone call apologizing for your error and being open to whatever steps you need to take to make it right will go a long way to fixing it. The other person at the end of the line is human and knows what it is like to make a mistake. They will normally try to help you come up with a solution if you explain what happened. You never know, you may be able to return the favour when the shoe is on the other foot. The same holds true for your co-workers. Most times it is in their best interests to help you succeed and then the whole team will come out ahead.
  • Slow Moving Vehicle: Sometimes we make a simple problem into a complicated one. Stop and evaluate and see if there is an easier solution. You would be surprised how easy it is to fix some things. Someone I know had a simple task to complete, or so I thought, but she had complicated it so much that I had to say to her, "Why don't you just do a cut and paste." She looked at me rather sheepishly, wondering why she hadn't thought of it, and then went back and did the job. The same thing has happened to me and I shake my head and wonder why I didn't think of the easy solution?
  • Construction Ahead: Planning ahead helps you anticipate last minute things that might come up. Rather than being unprepared, keep a checklist of things you need to do to complete the task. A checklist, however, is only effective if it is kept updated and looked at often. Use your checklist and you will find it a great tool to keep you on the right track and help you get around those obstacles.

The next time it looks like a roadblock has stopped you in your tracks, think of it as a hurdle. Hurdles can be overcome. Be creative. Don't take no for an answer. Keep your eye on the goal and look for ways you can get there. If someone says, "Don't bother asking, they will just say no." Ask anyway. There is no harm in asking and it just might get you the answer you are looking for.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Patricia:
What an encouraging message this is. We all face hurdles in our jobs, but often see them as roadblocks. I am part of the project management office at my company and I hear the term roadblocks all the time. Can't wait till the next meeting (this afternoon actually) when I can ask them if they really see the problem as a roadblock, or is it just a hurdle?
Thanks for the encouragement.
Patty Buckner, North Bay

Anonymous said...

Great article.

Patricia Robb said...

This article was just itching for me to write it and I couldn't resist. Glad you enjoyed it.

Shana | Secretary Diaries | said...

Hi Patricia
WOW! What an amazing, inspiring article. I love the way you relate the potholes, road blocks, etc. to hurdles/obstructions at work. This article is extremely well written, and I have already printed a hardcopy, which I am going to add to my file. Thanks for the inspirational article :-)
Kind Regards
Shana