How to stay the course when it gets tough - Michelle Gibbings

How to stay the course when it gets toughWith every new project, idea or development you aim to get off the ground, there will be challenges.

It’s easy to get excited about something that’s new. We get swept up in the initial enthusiasm for the benefits the change will bring.

But as the work starts, the reality hits. Challenges arise. Unexpected hurdles get put in our way. Obstacles that looked easily passable become more difficult, making progress slower and more gruelling than originally envisaged. What looked easy in the beginning, is much harder in the middle.

As Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter says: “Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work”.

It’s at this point that it’s easy to waver. To become anxious and uncertain and wonder whether you are on the right track.

You can start to question yourself, or the ability of those around you to make the change happen.

Teamwork can start to suffer as people look for someone to blame for the lack of progress, and your leadership might start to get questioned.

As a leader, you have two options: lose your nerve, or confront the challenges head on.

Here are seven tips to see you through to the other side – successfully:

  1. Be clear on the goal you are setting out to achieve and what every person involved needs to do to get there. Don’t get side tracked by interesting, but irrelevant matters
  2. Break the actions to secure this goal into bite size pieces, so that regular and meaningful progress can be regularly delivered
  3. Highlight the progress being made and ensure it is visible to everyone. Celebrate this progress in a way that is meaningful and share this success with relevant stakeholders
  4. Know where your and your team’s efforts will produce the most effective results. This is the old 80/20 rule.  Focus on where you know you will get results
  5. Work to eliminate the friction in the system that makes the progress you need to make harder than it needs to be. This may involve removing bureaucratic processes and unnecessary activities
  6. Make it safe to fail so that those involved are encouraged to try new things and new ways of working. Otherwise they’ll be discouraged from finding better and faster ways of achieving results
  7. Be open with your team about what’s working and what isn’t working. Seek their input on how the team can work together more effectively to secure more progress

Whilst it is hard battling through the ‘middle’, bravery and tenacity pay off.

As former American President John Quincy Adams said: “Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.”  

Change happens. Make it work for you.

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’.  For more information: or contact

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