Moving Beyond the Churn…

I was strolling along the Des Plaines River the other day when I noticed a churn in the otherwise peaceful flow of the water. Anything that drifted toward the turbulent spot got caught up in the whirl. I stood transfixed along the bank watching a tennis ball twist and bob in place, unable to escape.

It was stuck inside the churn.

From my angle, I could see that the tennis ball just needed a little nudge from the right and it would be free from the turbulence. I tried poking it with a branch, but it was too far out for me to reach. Leaves and branches drifted into the churn, too, causing the ball to twirl, but nothing knocked it free.

As I watched, I was struck that when we get stuck in situations of churn in our lives, it is easy to exert energy without actually moving or making any progress. We are often too close to the problem to see exactly the best way to dislodge ourselves. The concept of the churn became all the more poignant for me as I observed a CEO client struggle with his team through the daunting challenges of exponential growth, the lack of talent, production issues, supply chain shortages, resignations, and more. In today’s circumstances, it is easy to get caught in the churn and bogged down by the gripping forces that keep you in place.

As coaches, we love the amazing power of open-ended questions as they immediately expand our minds to new perspectives and new possibilities. If you feel like you are caught in a churn, it is time to pause, step back, and reassess the situation. Some of the questions you might ask yourself are: What’s the 30,000-foot view? Where is the strategy overcomplicated? How are you getting in your own way?

Why are you stuck? Is there a disempowering belief that is holding you back or is there a situational impingement? If the cause is something out of your control, can you challenge yourself to find another creative solution to the problem?

If you can relate to these questions and the challenge of exploring their answers, I encourage you to acknowledge what you are feeling. Then seek ways to break the cycle and move forward again with renewed focus and energy. You might find yourself embracing the disempowering beliefs that there will always be struggle before success, that working harder always makes it better, or that complexity breeds excellence. But consider, where are you needlessly overcomplicating the situation and getting in your own way? Remember that self-care is usually part of the equation as well.

Instead of getting bogged down, go back to the simpler and often more basic question of what you are trying to accomplish. Look for an easier path. What truly needs to be preserved, what can you eliminate, and what needs to be adapted or evolved differently? Going back to these basics will allow you to get beneath and beyond the cause of the churn to recenter yourself.

And then ask this same question, but this time collectively with your team, “What are we trying to accomplish?” By collaboratively brainstorming and asking new questions or rewording the old ones, the team has access to many new responses. Ideation explodes and new vantage points emerge. Engagement brings some humor, some ease, and a renewed sense of confidence so you can say together, “We’ve got this!”

Ultimately when you are freed from the churn, the river flows in full stream. Movement begins again as if you were never stuck at all. Things seem to slot into place.

And that’s when the real magic happens.

About the Author

Clyde C. Lowstuter
President & CEO | Master Certified Coach, Robertson Lowstuter, Inc.

Clyde is a peak performance Executive Coach and CEO of R|L. He has been a visionary thought leader and pioneer in the field designing and leading corporate coaching and team building since 1981. He has been a visionary thought leader and pioneer in the field designing and leading executive career transition services, corporate coaching, and team building since 1981. From an early age, he was fascinated by why and how people think, feel, and behave differently from one another. He deduced that Authenticity, Accountability & Behavioral Agility are foundational to success. Insatiably curious and resourceful, Clyde enables executives to assess more of their capabilities and confidence. Read Full Bio



This Post Has One Comment

  1. Debbie Garrity

    Great reflective questions Clyde. Sometimes I can’t read the wine label because I’m stuck inside the bottle looking out instead of in. I’ll keep these handy!

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