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Gut Check: Are You Stuck In Your Own Groundhog Day?

It’s February 2nd, one of the most important days in the winter calendar across North America. That’s because it’s Groundhog Day – the day when we allow a shaggy rodent to help us figure out whether winter is coming to a swift end, or whether we have to endure another six weeks of cold weather.

Here’s how it works: if the groundhog comes out of his or her burrow and sees its shadow, then it’s another month-and-a-half of winter. No shadow means an early spring. It’s a fun tradition and if we get a signal of an early spring, everyone rejoices, and winter seems just that much more bearable.

What I find interesting is that those heavily invested in the tradition of Groundhog Day claim the predictions are 75-95% accurate. Yet meteorological data suggests only a 37% accuracy rate. Which, when you think about it, is actually pretty good for a rodent.

Groundhog Day also has another meaning that was made popular from the hilarious film of the same name starring Bill Murray. It also refers to any time we experience a series of events in exactly the same way, over and over again. It’s this definition of Groundhog Day that I often run into in my work with leaders.

My version of Groundhog Day the movie goes a little like this.

My team and I will be working with an organization which can last months or even years. Through these projects there are many touch points and meetings where we discuss strategy, leadership and the critical challenges they face.

As I join those meetings over time, I see them make progress. They are changing behaviors, evolving the culture and executing on priorities. I can sense the positive momentum. I relish these moments.

However, there are times when this doesn’t happen. Instead of forward movement, there is stagnation.

What I have discovered is there is a telltale sign that immediately tells me when leaders are stuck. All you have to do is listen to their conversations. When you do, you’ll find them talking about the same thing over and over again. In those moments, I ask myself, “Didn’t you talk about all this stuff the last time we met?” Yes they did. And the time before. And probably the time before that.

This is when it becomes abundantly clear to me that they are living their own version of Groundhog Day.

What’s really interesting is that when I point out my observations to these leaders, most aren’t even aware that it is happening. Even though they have spent months going around and around and not getting anywhere. They are actually surprised and sometimes even a little miffed when I point out what I’m witnessing.

After some further discussion, they begin to admit that, yes, they have been living through Groundhog Day. Many even say they noticed it, were frustrated by it, but chose to keep quiet. If any of this is sounding remotely familiar, then you need to step up and change how you are leading.

As leaders, it’s important for all of us to pay attention to whether we are making progress, or staying mired in the same old problems. If you and your team are stuck hashing out the same issues over and over and over again, you need to hit the pause button. You need to take stock of your situation because if you aren’t even aware that it is happening, then you really aren’t leading.

Granted, some business challenges are not easy to resolve. Many of the problems that leaders face are stubborn, complex and defy easy answers. That having been said, it’s easy to lose perspective and not realize that we are stuck in a Groundhog Day loop.

If you think you are stuck in a Groundhog Day scenario of your own, try this experiment over the coming week. In all your meetings with your own team, or with your peers, just sit back and observe what is being talked about. Are they the same old chronic problems you’ve been talking about for months, or even years? If you’ve heard it all before, then you need to step up and bring a halt to the cycle. Then you need to work with your colleagues to acknowledge it, admit it and fix it.

This week’s gut check for leaders asks: Are you stuck in your own groundhog day?

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About the Author

Vince Molinaro is a speaker, consultant, executive at Lee Hecht Harrison, and author of the New York Times bestseller The Leadership Contract now in its third edition.

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