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Ask These 7 Questions to Inspire Yourself and Get Out of a Career Rut

Ask These 7 Questions to Inspire Yourself and Get Out of a Career Rut

Life is frustrating when you’re stuck in a career rut. I’ve been there and it wasn’t pretty. I felt stuck for years at a job I liked but didn’t love. Although my coworkers and clients were awesome, the daily grind of my weekly work routine gradually sucked the joy out of me. With a lot of hard work, I revamped my entire life. I rediscovered my passions, started a business, left my job, and am making my dreams my reality.

Here are some of the questions I asked myself to help me get out of my rut and feel alive again. Hopefully these questions will help you as much as they have helped me.

1. Is this really what I want?

Millions of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. If you find yourself gleefully announcing “Thank God it’s Friday!” every week, start paying attention to yourself. Life’s too short to spend your life in quiet desperation, craving to bust out of the confines of your job and make a different dent on the world.

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If you don’t love your work, have the courage to actually admit it to yourself and set out to change your situation. In this famous TED Talk, Mel Robbins describes how lying to yourself and telling yourself you’re fine when you’re really not happy sabotages your life. In her compelling speech, Robbins has some great tips to help you stop screwing yourself over and actually get out of your rut.

2. Who am I?

Becoming a self-expert is a crucial part of discovering the work you love to do. Study yourself and devote time to learning about your personality and what lights you up. When you understand your unique strengths and passions, you can set out to discover work that allows you to capitalize on the best parts of you.

If you’ve been stuck in the daily grind for awhile, just going through the motions of each day, you might feel like you don’t know who you are or what you love anymore. The good news is there are many great books and personality tests you can use for self-discovery. One of my favorite resources is Sally Hogshead’s site How to Fascinate. Hogshead’s assessments can help you discover your personality’s top advantages in the working world and in your personal life. Her site is unique in that it helps you understand how the world sees you. This information was life-changing for me when I was stuck in my career rut.

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3. If I had the time, money, connections, [fill in the blank…], what would I do?

What are your biggest dreams? Dreaming big is an incredibly important step in finding and doing work you love. Picture your life without constraints. Then get your big idea out of your head and onto paper. Write down your giant career aspirations in as much detail as possible to give yourself a clear picture of what your goals are.

When you find yourself immediately thinking, “That’s not possible; I don’t know how”, “I’m not smart enough” or placing any other limitations you put on yourself, reframe your thoughts. Changing your mindset to “I’ll do everything I can to learn how to do this” and “I’ll surround myself with people who can help me make this possible” can make an immense difference in your life and help you get unstuck.

4. What can I do today to move me toward my goals?

Start taking actions every day to move you closer to your long-term career goals. Immerse yourself in podcasts and books by people who inspire you. Taking small steps every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes per day, can help you move towards a career you’ll love. If you’re intimidated by your big goals, commit to taking a baby step forward every day. Eventually you’ll look back and be amazed at the progress you’ve made.

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5. Who do I need to help me?

Even professional athletes and many of the world’s most successful business owners have coaches. Identify the areas in your career where you could benefit from guidance. Maybe you could use leadership training or business strategy planning? Seeking out assistance and building a supportive team of people you can collaborate with can empower you to make your vision for your career a reality.

6. Are there luxuries in my life I’m willing to give up to have more freedom?

Many people feel trapped in their jobs due to financial stress. Yet sometimes this financial stress could easily be relieved by temporarily changing your spending habits. This Ellen Goodman quote sums up why many people are dissatisfied with their lives: “Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.”

If you’re feeling stuck in your job, and craving getting out, carefully consider your spending habits. Making short-term sacrifices may allow you to decrease your hours at work, or to accept that job you’d love offering less pay.

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7. How can I make a difference where I am now?

Check out this article about how to make a difference in the world where you are now. It’s possible to make a big impact on others even when you’re working in a frustrating, thankless job.

Want more tips to get out of your career rut? Check out my advice in this article on the 7 Mindsets website for 7 tips to make your life less miserable when you’re thinking, “I want to quit my job!”

Featured photo credit: Hard Work Can Hurt/Dave C via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life Don’t like your job? Here are some solutions. How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

        More About Leadership

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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