While presenting one of my No-Compromise Leadership workshops, it was obvious I touched a nerve when I hit the subject of leaders being stuck on the proverbial hamster wheel. When leaders are stuck on the hamster wheel, they are essentially running at high speed, burning lots of energy – and getting nowhere fast. It’s being stuck in that daily rut of driving revenues, fighting cash flow, motivating unmotivated employees, and trying to push projects across the finish line. It’s working harder and gaining little, if any, ground. It’s when that little voice in your head keeps asking, “How long can you keep going like this?”
Fact: Getting off the hamster wheel is not easy. By the time you realize you’re on it, you’re already spinning so fast that jumping off seems outright dangerous. And if you slow down, all the fears, concerns and what-ifs may catch up to you. Well, here’s another fact to chew on: Spinning on the hamster wheel is exhausting and unsustainable. You found a way to get on it, and now it’s time to get off and regain control of your life and your company. The good news is that being stuck on the hamster wheel is one dilemma you can find a solution for.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to get off and stay off the hamster wheel:
- STEP ONE — It’s nothing more than a routine: The first step to getting off the hamster wheel is to recognize it for what it is. It’s a routine and a pattern of behavior that you can absolutely change – if you want to. Consider what happens when you go on vacation, take a long weekend, or attend a seminar or conference. You’re forcing yourself into a new pattern of behavior that gives you a mental and physical break from spinning on the hamster wheel. Once you acknowledge that it’s a routine you’re stuck in – and that you have control over that routine – you can move to the next step.
- STEP TWO — Something worth chasing: Since you’re getting nowhere on the hamster wheel, Step Two is about setting your sights on a set of goals that will inspire you to break out of your routine. You control your destiny. Too many leaders lose sight of this and allow situations to shape their routine and behaviors. So, if you want to channel your time and energy on work that fulfills and excites, define exactly what that work is. Write it down. Immerse yourself in thoughts of actually doing that work every day. Call it manifesting or whatever you want – if you can’t see it in your mind and feel it inside you – it’s not real.
- STEP THREE — Eliminate the blockage: Just about every case of getting stuck on the hamster wheel involves a leadership blockage. I define a leadership blockage as tasks, responsibilities and decisions that you avoid like the plague. So much so that spinning on the hamster wheel feels like a better alternative than busting through your blockages. Getting off the hamster wheel means addressing all that stuff you’ve been avoiding. Dig into your financials and find that elephant that’s been sucking the financial life out of your company – and make a decision that will fix it. Stop running your company like a country club by putting in the structure, systems and accountability that define all great companies. Sit down with that problem employee and say, “I’ve been fighting harder to protect your paycheck then you have.” Whatever your blockages are, now is the time to bust through them and reclaim control.
- STEP FOUR — The risk is worth it: I loathe the hamster wheel. Therefore, I design my work routine to avoid getting stuck. I have my work in the office where I write, create, lead and deal with stuff. (Yeah, I goof off a bit too. Goofing off balances the stress.) I also travel a lot for speaking and consulting. I design my work in ways to keep it engaging and fulfilling, so just when I feel like I’m getting stuck in a routine, I’m on to a new project. No, it isn’t perfect, but it works for me. The key is taking the risk to step out of your comfort zone. To challenge yourself and continually raise your own success bar up a few rungs to make you stretch. Fact: Status quo is the hamster wheel.
- STEP FIVE — Time and timing: It took time for your routine to turn into a hamster wheel. It’s going to take time to change your routine and replace it with one that’s not only new and improved, but that will reignite your passion for business – one that will have you fall in love with your work and your company all over again. Only you can decide when you’ve had enough of getting nowhere on the hamster wheel. Only you can decide when it’s time to take the risk of stepping off and busting through your blockages. Only you can define what goals and objectives are worth chasing. And only you can define what kind of work fulfills you. This all takes time.
In Chapter 8 of my No-Compromise Leadership book, there is an 18-month timeline for a culture shift. The same holds true for a personal culture shift. The first 30 days are critical. Making it through the first 90 days is essential. Push through the first six months and you have the best chance of busting free of the hamster wheel and taking your company to that elusive next level. No compromise.
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Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership
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