Solution Saturday: A Simple Strategy to Take Control of Your Future

Dear Dan,

There are few things which look nice in theory but not in the real world, for example, “If you can’t say what you think, you can’t become who you were meant to be.”

What happens when you say what you think and you get into trouble?

Dan, what type of leadership is this? Your Boss seems to talk wise but when you tell him that you are not happy and not productive in the project, as well as in the team, he does nothing.

You literally begged him many times to get you out of that team and that project but he refuses to do that. His only explanation is that he can’t do that. There are tons of people with my skills only but he refuses to move someone else to this horrible team and terrible project.

You told him many times that because of this stress you gained 19 pounds of weight in 6 months since you accepted this job.

I really want to know what would you call this type of leadership where your boss knows that an employee is miserable but he does nothing.

He always says I want my employees to be happy and productive. I told him today that please never ever say that you want your employees to be happy and productive. It’s not true.

Please share with me your thoughts about this type of leadership. This is very stressful for me.


Stressed Out

Dear Stressed,

Your email is disturbing in so many ways. Before I share an idea of how to thrive in this situation, let me address the sense of discomfort I feel.

Your request that I share my thoughts on your boss feels off base. I know it feels good to have someone commiserate with you. And your email does make me feel sad. But I’ve heard it said that there are no wrong questions. Your question is the wrong question. It won’t help you very much if I agree that you have a lousy boss.

I have one simple suggestion to help you take control of your future. Create a circle of success.

Circle of Success:

I believe you need support and challenge from others. You aren’t going to get it from your boss or a dysfunctional team.

Find three other people who are passionate to succeed. Include internal colleagues and external professionals. Meet with them once a week.

Don’t invite whiners and complainers. Avoid people who take your side rather than pursue improvement. Yes, you’re unhappy. It doesn’t do any good for you to center your life on the things that make you unhappy.

Establish a forward-facing purpose: Develop leadership skills, for example.

Use personal perspective to clarify objectives. For example, how might you encourage each other? Have each member personally describe what encouragement looks like in action. Make specific commitments to encourage each other in ways that personally work for each other.

Answer challenging questions together:

  1. How might we succeed on dysfunctional teams?
  2. What can we do when we feel our leaders are wrong?
  3. What does service look like when others seem unworthy of being served?
  4. How might we maintain optimism in negative situations?
  5. How might we support each other in our leadership development?

Commit to behaviors, not theories or thoughts. What exactly will you do to succeed on dysfunctional teams, for example.

Hold each other accountable. Make commitments to try new behaviors. Describe the behaviors. Report on the results. Share learnings. Set new goals.

Notes about your leader:

It goes without saying that if you can find a new job, do it. I suspect that you want to stay with your organization.

You can’t change your leader. Accept that he isn’t going to take you off the team. You’re expending energy that could be centered on more productive activities.

Leadership begins when we accept realities. You change what you first accept. Acceptance isn’t agreement. Acceptance allows you to evaluate the situation dispassionately and choose an imperfect path forward.

Ultimately, the right to choose assignments is earned by successfully completing tough assignments. Make yourself proud. Bring your best self to every situation. At this moment, I feel you are distracted and negative.

Don’t blame your boss for your weight gain. You can’t criticize your boss and expect him to happily jump on your team at the same time.

It may be hard to hear right now, but it’s the dark days that make us. I believe that you have the power to take control of your future, if you stop giving so much power to others.

Finally, you quoted something I wrote at the beginning or your email. “If you can’t say what you think, you can’t become who you were meant to be.” Congratulations for saying what you think. You might consider creating a Circle of Success where you can say what you think and have better results.

You have my best,


What suggestions do you have for Stressed Out?