(#173) Sailing or Anchoring?

To reach a port, we must sail. Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.
–Franklin Roosevelt–

No doubt, you have heard people use the expression “think outside the box” to encourage creative thinking.  The idea: move beyond your comfort zone and explore new options. Be bold and creative. Be open and experience new vistas.

If you are too reticent to climb outside the box, you initially could move as close to the edges of the current box as possible.  Continue to push a tad further to know you have stretched. Pause. Reflect. Extend a little further.

Image: Ohmmy3d/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Ohmmy3d/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not everyone, however, is comfortable going beyond the usual parameters.  Perhaps you have had to work with people for whom even looking at the edges of the box creates too much angst.  Their comfort zone ends up being assuaged by shrinking the current box.  Rather than sail even a little bit from the sight of land, they choose to remain anchored in the current and in sight of the old and familiar. They work to spec. Life and work remain the “same ol’, same ol’.”

If asked to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis I’ve seen these folks totally ignore the strengths and opportunities of a new perspective—and go directly to the problems (perceived or real). They tightly secure their anchor to the weaknesses and threats. Not just on occasion—but pretty much in every situation that attempts to move to the edges or beyond. Why?  Well, perhaps they

  • Have difficulty adjusting to change.
  • Do not want to invest time needed to retool.
  • Have seen so much change they are simply tired.
  • Would rather protect their turf.
  • Are short-sighted.
  • Delight in being a curmudgeon.
  • Fear what they do not understand.
  • Are jealous of ideas and attention associated with creative team members.
  • Need a better education to the situation at hand.
  • Lack leadership that promotes and nurtures free thinking.
Image: cbenjasuwan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: cbenjasuwan/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As frustrating as these Negative Nellies can be, let’s learn from the experience.  For instance:

  • What strengths can we find in their opposition?  What positive points can you find in the reticence for change?  What have you possibly overlooked in your zeal? Even though you may disagree with Tentative Tommy he may have valid concerns.

Video recommendation for the week:

A quick visual overview of SWOT.


  • What weaknesses are present in your views and theirs? In what way(s) may the criticism be misguided or wrongheaded? Do you have sufficient information to support your position?
  • What opportunities can you find in the disagreement? How can the criticism or reticence move the team forward? How can you make sure the person with misgivings feels heard and validated? Can you see a better alternative?  An effective leader  will help you see where opportunities exist and how to exploit them for good.
  • What threats exist in this situation? The major threat is avoiding professional, respectful and passionate debate.  The path of least resistance may lead to more problems.  Ask the person (or people) with misgivings what they see as a positive in the proposed new direction.

 If you have to spend time with the naysayers (the anchors)… learn from them…understand them…and sail on.

Image: lkunl / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: lkunl /
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Choose well. Live well. Be well—and H.T.R.B. as needed!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) with friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli).  If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment. Make it a wonderful week!

Check out my upcoming webinars for October.  Click here to register now for the webinar.  Or go to my website for registration information.  My October titles: (1) Student Motivation: Practical Strategies that Will Increase Engagement, Learning and Retention; and (2) Priority Management: An Action Plan for Managing Work and Life (complementary webinar). Both of these webinars are part of the Innovative Educators’ webinar series.

 ©2013. Steve Piscitelli

About stevepiscitelli

Facilitator-Author-Teacher
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