No matter how hard I pushed, it simply wouldn’t budge.
The seat on the machine at the gym was hopelessly stuck. I was getting more of a workout trying to move the seat into the right position than I get actually using the machine.
I couldn’t understand what was wrong. I had seen other people use the machine. It seemed to work fine for them. So, why was I finding this so difficult?
I looked around to see if anyone had noticed my dilemma. I sat down on the machine and tried to make it work without making the adjustment. My legs weren’t long enough. I definitely needed that seat to move.
Ultimately, I just gave up and moved on to a different piece of equipment. My niece, who has been my workout buddy for the past few weeks, was headed to the problematic machine next.
“Don’t bother”, I told her as she approached. “That seat doesn’t move.”
Of course, she didn’t listen to me (because what 22-year-old actually listens to someone more than two decades older than them without first trying it for themselves?)
I watched as she pushed on the seat, just as I had… but for her, it magically shifted. She still had to put some oomph into it, but it hadn’t even seemed *possible* for me.
Apparently, the lever for the seat needed to be pulled out in exactly the right way. No matter how hard I had worked at it, the seat wasn’t going to move without that essential action.
In my work with membership organizations, this same dynamic happens often. Clients come to me pushing *hard* against unseen forces that are clearly preventing movement. They know what they want, they are working so very hard to make change happen, and yet it feels like nothing is moving.In fact, they might even be questioning whether movement is even possible.
In retrospect, here are 3 ways that I could have handled the situation differently:
1) I could have paid closer attention to *how* others were making the machine work instead of just assuming that it *would* work for me.
I think sometimes when we look around and see other organizations succeeding, it’s easy to think that success will just happen for us, too. So, when we’re suddenly faced with a reality that feels really, really, really hard, or darn near impossible, we are taken by surprise.
There can even be a little embarrassment or shame around the fact that something isn’t working, especially when we’re in charge of making something happen and we have people watching us.
Like me, you may even be trying to go through the motions. While I suspected that my legs weren’t going to be long enough without moving the seat, I was trying to make it happen anyway.
2) When I got on the machine and it didn’t work, I could have asked for help.
There are plenty of staff at the gym and one of them would have happily shown me how to make the seat move. Instead of calling on one of them as a resource, I opted to give up.
Often in our organizations, we struggle for too long with a problem without taking full advantage of the resources and expertise that are available to us. If you’re struggling with a stuck seat, maybe it’s time to look around and see what assistance we could call in.
3) I could have also been more open-minded about the fact that I was wrong in my assessment of the seat situation.
Because I had struggled with the problem for so long, I assumed that movement was impossible. I had been so convinced of this that I even discouraged my niece from trying.
How often do we dismiss possibilities because we’ve struggled for a while and our efforts have been unsuccessful? Isn’t it possible that we’ve missed a lever that is right in plain view, but we’ve somehow overlooked it?
We are in a period of time when many organizations are going to look at the current situation and feel like they are stuck with an impossible situation, but I want you to know that the situation is not permanent and that sense of stuckness may not even be real. With some creativity and a willingness to try a different approach, the possibility of movement does exist.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Joy Duling is Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership. Since 2005, Joy and her team have helped associations, trade groups and membership-based nonprofits run their programs more easily and deliver exceptional member care.
You can find FREE tools, tips and training to help you run and grow your membership organization in The Joy of Membership Help Hub.