We all get stuck from time to time.  In fact, if we never get stuck, we aren’t working on a anything significant enough.

This week I got stuck again facing a problem at work that needed to be fixed. Several teams I lead were not responding to a particular request. My automatic response was to repeat prior failed attempts to solve this problem by communicating more, emailing more and texting more. I knew this solution wasn’t going to garner improved results. But I did it anyways.

Now I’m tired of the bruises from blindly and stubbornly repeating the same tactics and strategies.

We are all familiar with what I refer to as Albert Einstein’s insanity equation.”Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Thanks Al… but how do we figure out what will work?

As an educator at heart and by training, the answer I soon realized was simple.  I needed education in the area of effective communication.  In short I needed someone to help. This was reinforced when I came across a tweet from American Federation of Teachers (AFT) that provided a simple reminder. It said, “A good education can change anyone, a good teacher can change everything.” (@AFTteach)

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The solution to my stubborn devotion to methodology that wasn’t working, had to be to get an “education“.  I needed an outside perspective on how to tackle this issue.  I needed a teacher. Someone with more experience and skill.  Someone that could help mitigate the tendency to fling myself against the wall of insanity. Someone who would actually help me determine a better way to achieve the different results needed. I asked the smartest person in my organization in the area of team building and communication to help me solve this issue.

How often do we find ourselves in stuck?  When we find ourselves bumping up against the insanity equation we need to arrest our efforts and activate two critical habits.

2 Habits to Avoid the Insanity Equation

  1. Reflect Consistently
  2. Educate Relentlessly

Reflect Consistently: George Santayana famously postulated that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Only when we have reflected consistently on our habits, patterns, behaviors and results can we know what works and what we must avoid moving forward. We so easily move on from our successes and our failures in a relentless pursuit of whatever is next.  Consider routinely ending every week with time of reflection. I have a calendar item that repeats every week called my “Daily Anchor” that reminds me to reflect on what has happened and anchor myself moving forward. However you chose to do it, make sure you reflect consistently.

Educate Relentlessly: Great leaders are humble enough to recognize when they need to find a teacher and get an education.  This doesn’t mean going back to school.  It could mean reading a book, asking a colleague for guidance, asking an expert to give you 10 minutes of their time, researching the topic for solutions on reputable blogs.  Whatever it takes, great leaders are constantly educating themselves so they can avoid the pain of Einstein’s insanity equation.

Developing and engaging these two habits will help us put Einstein’s equation in the rearview mirror.








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