Skill Building Series: Are You A Stick In The Mud?

Are You A Stick In the Mud? It’s A Problem

Gerald has been successful in his position as a regional sales manager, but in the past few years he’s been having trouble keeping up with coworkers. As one of the more tenured employees, newer managers often come to him to get the history of the business. But when they recommend a new way of doing things, his philosophy is ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ Once the man with the answers, now he is starting to become known as a ‘stick in the mud.’

With the help of his coach, Gerald discovered that others see him as being narrow minded and closed to feedback and to learning new ways of doing things. He admitted he does hear the feedback others give him, but he doesn’t take action. His response: ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

What Gerald is suffering from is an underdeveloped learning and self development skill. This can show up as being closed to learning new interpersonal and leadership skills or approaches; a lack of curiosity; not insightful about himself; may see adjusting to other ways as a sign of weakness or being wishy-washy; or may be concerned about following the newest fad, as it may not last.

A More Desirable Outcome

Skill: Personal Learning and Self Development

There is strength in balancing the learning and self development skill. It’s that person who is eager to learn; interested in what’s new and better; seeks out and listens to feedback; is open to new and interesting perspectives; reads people and groups well; is looking to improve himself; and is sensitive to the different challenges and changes accordingly but not on a whim.

The Path Forward

To strengthen Gerald’s learning and self development skills, he and his coach implemented the following action items:

  1. Gerald requests feedback twice per year from his boss, coworkers, and staff. He and his coach designed the questions to focus on his learning and self development skill.
  2. Next, Gerald and his coach review the feedback and identify one item to explore further.
  3. Together they create a 3 to 6 month action plan to address the one feedback item.
  4. Once per quarter, Gerald identifies a successful co-worker who does things differently than he, and has an informal lunch to learn more about their perspective and choice of approach. Afterwards, he meets with his coach and provides a summary of what he observed.

Gerald’s biggest obstacle was getting into action. He never seemed to have time to devote to learning and development for himself. For him, the accountability of working with a coach he trusts provided the structure to help him overcome that obstacle.

Your Turn


How strong is your learning and self development muscle? Are you learning and growing to support your business goals? Do you have an action plan with specific goals and objectives? How are you keeping yourself accountable to reach those development goals?


About The Skill Building Series

The anywhere worker is designing, building, and leading the future of anywhere work. There are many skills needed to be successful as an anywhere leader. In this serious, we will meet several virtual / anywhere leaders who have sought coaching. In each session we look at the presenting problem, the desired outcome, and an action plan. Not surprising is the need for these skills in any leader – anywhere.

I may have changed the names (to protect the clients) but the situations presented are very real. Don’t be surprised if you see yourself in any of these scenarios.