Sorry guys, I keep forgetting to post here! Few blog posts coming your way, back to back. Oops!
Upon encountering obstacles, especially when entering a new field, a common kneejerk reaction is to ask a more experienced colleague how they handled the situation when they first encountered it. On the contrary, I think the best way to go about overcoming obstacles is to try to guess it out before asking anything, (especially as a new person, when it may be least expected and, as a result, most-likely to stand out.) Being new at something is a great time to really test out and grow your leadership skills. Although it may sound counter-intuitive for a novice to think of themselves as a leader, hear me out.
I was being considered for a management position at one point, and when I heard I was being considered, I asked former role models and mentors of mine what their advice for me potentially taking on a management role would be. One of the pieces of advice I was given was, “If you’re at a crossroads, make a decision. If it’s right, great... If it’s wrong, then admit it was wrong and correct it later (effectively, make a second-- better-- decision.)
Leaders make decisions and go in with the mentality that, ‘I will deal with the consequences if this is incorrect, but standing still isn't an option. Standing still helps no one.”
When all door choices appear to be the same color beige, and there is literally no decipherable difference between the choices, the only option is to walk through one and see if the desired outcome takes place. If not, backspace, and try again with a different identical beige-colored door. Classic process of elimination, trial-and-error solution. Eventually one of the outcomes has to be at least minutely more favorable than the others, and that’s where leadership comes in-- the willingness to take that risk, even as a new person, and-- (this part makes the difference)-- having the willingness to accept the consequences of going through the wrong beige door, and the determination to make it right whenever the wrong choice is inevitably made.
Taking initiative, and at least attempting to independently find the key to overcoming a certain obstacle, is one of the stepping stones to effective decision-making that are necessary to personal growth as a budding leader. Even if it’s incorrect, you can look at the person you’re later asking for help and say, “I need help with [this thing.] I’ve tried [this] and [this,] and I’m still unclear on [this aspect.]” That way, you can ask a more thorough question and help them help you more efficiently, thereby respecting their time and generally earning their respect in return.
Some of my best lessons are learned by purposefully not asking for help right away, to teach myself WHY the correct answer is indeed the correct answer or whether two different methods will give relatively the same result. If there is more than one correct answer, and I can figure out a feasible solution on my own, then why would I take up another person's time who already has more on their plate than I do on mine, only for them to tell me something that I could have figured out on my own? I didn’t coin the term, but I do like to refer to this strategy as “failing forward;" using mistakes to fuel growth.
I tend to get in my own way with this, though. The humility to realize when I can’t figure out the answer on my own mixed with also not wanting to bother another person unnecessarily are usually my main struggles and can keep me searching for solutions for longer than necessary. This is probably where I struggle with leadership the most as well-- knowing when to ask for help, and knowing when I’m just wandering lost in the forest (because I’m always “so close, I can feel it!” Think, the stereotypical suburban “dad” figure, 7 hours into a drive to a vacation it should’ve taken the family two hours to.)
I think over time in this industry I'll focus on getting a better guage for what is something I can figure out on my own, vs what I should as for help with, and really just finding that line between self-sufficiency and stubbornness. So far, I'm absolutely loving just feeding that creativity bug and being able to feel myself learning again. I've missed that for quite a while now and I'm so thankful to feel it coming back. Who knew something as seemingly problematic as overcoming obstacles could do something monumental like allow a person to see herself again?!