Getting Teams Unstuck

By June 15, 2013Generations

Guest Post by Sean Glaze

Stuck in MudWhen I was in college, I went riding with a friend of mine in his truck down a few back roads.

It had just rained, and we thought it would be fun to explore a bit. The problem was that we soon found ourselves in the middle of nowhere and stuck in the mud.

This was before everyone had a cell phone in their back pocket, so it took a good bit of time and energy for us to finally get ourselves out of the mud.

Having worked for years with a variety of teams, athletic, corporate, and other organizations, I have found that it is not only vehicles that get stuck.

A Stuck in the Mud Story

We all get stuck in the mud at times – in our work, in our spiritual lives, and even in our relationships. And there are a few valuable lessons we learned that day on a South Georgia dirt road that may save your group from unnecessary frustration and help your team to get unstuck.

First, we made a mistake and drove unprepared onto unfamiliar rough roads.

When my friend first realized that his truck’s back tires were caught in the mud, he gave it more gas and dug the hole deeper. This went on for a few minutes until, after hitting the steering wheel out of frustration, we realized if nothing changes, nothing changes – and decided to take a different approach.

Next, after spinning our wheels unsuccessfully more than a few times, we decided that I should get out and find gravel or sticks or a board to place under the tires to give us more traction.

Finally, after freeing the vehicle from the mud, we had to find our way back to a better road.

And our story from years ago is very similar to what many teams and individuals find themselves experiencing.

To get out of a frustrating and difficult situation, you need to try something different and get more traction so you can get yourself back on track.

Getting Unstuck: Individual and Team

Here are four questions you might want to consider:

1. What is the mud that you are stuck in?

Maybe you find that you keep dating the wrong guy / girl. Maybe you are in a job that leaves you unfulfilled or on a team that keeps struggling with the same flaws or issues.

What is your mud? 

2. What kind of wheels have you been spinning without success?

Maybe you have been finding dates through your friends. Maybe you have allowed yourself to stagnate at your current job instead of seeking new skills, maybe your team has been pushed with fear and criticism rather than encouragement.

What have you been doing that needs to change?

3. What creative form of “traction” is available?

Maybe you should seek a different set of dating candidates. Maybe you should take a class or apply for a new position that challenges you. Maybe your team needs something to shake it up and try to approach your season or project in a new way.

What ideas can you come up with that you haven’t tried yet?

4. What is your “better road” and eventual destination?

Maybe you have an idea of the type of person you want to be with – don’t accept less than that. Maybe you know the type of job you want – don’t continue to settle for a position that you aren’t passionate about. Maybe your team knows what it wants to accomplish – don’t let distractions or diversions keep your teammates from focusing on that goal.

You have to know your destination – otherwise being stuck isn’t keeping you from getting anywhere. Your destination determines the road and direction you must move in, and the truth is:

The only reason you likely got stuck in the mud in the first place is that you tried to take a shortcut or weren’t clear about a destination when you began your journey.

Ask for Help in Getting Unstuck

Back in college, having a winch would have been helpful. Sometimes we need others to help pull us out of the mud we are stuck in.

Sometimes, individually, we can benefit from the guidance and prodding of a friend who reaches out or suggests ways to help get ourselves unstuck. If you are looking for conference ideas to engage and inspire your group to get out of the mud, consider inviting a team-building speaker to share a message that includes fun team development activities.

The important thing is that you stop spinning your wheels and find your way to a more solid and successful path.

Do you want to get a bit more traction with creating a more cohesive team or boosting the morale in your organization? Whether you want a day of team building for teachers, athletes, or a corporate group, it is important to “get traction” by doing something different that will re-focus and energize your team.

If you can think of any other lessons that would help teams or individuals get “out of the mud,” I hope you will share them!

Guest Author

Sean GlazeSean Glaze has enjoyed motivating people and inspiring teams for over 20 years and has consistently turned under-achievers into cohesive winners – both on and off the court – by sharing helpful information and focus on team development activities. Follow Sean on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn for free teambuilding resources and articles to help lead your team.



From time to time, guest writers contribute to Thin Difference. Topics include leadership, career development, creativity, and mindfulness. Our mission is to "Cross the gap and lead with a new story line," inspiring Millennial leaders.

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Marquita Herald says:

    Great analogy Sean. I’m a big fan of questions and whenever I find I’m spinning my wheels on something I look for another way to do it, go around or up and over the obstacle … in this case the mud. I often joke about myself as being the Queen of the Work-Around, but that’s basically my physolophy.

    • Sean Glaze says:

      Thanks, Marquita-
      Taking the initiative to overcome discouragement and “work around” obstacles is definitely a skill that teammates can improve as they gain experience with handling adversity…

  • Wonderful advice, Sean! So many of us keep repeating the same patterns and getting more and more frustrated by it. When we stop to look at why we keep getting stuck–or what you said in terms of “What’s the mud?”–we begin to dissolve the chain of repeating the same mistake over and over again. Asking for help is great advice, too, something that takes humility and confidence to do. Thanks again for sharing your insights!

  • Hiten Vyas says:

    Hi Sean,

    This was a wonderful guest post, indeed!

    One point that really stood out for me, was what you said about the importance of knowing our destination. Indeed, as you said, we need to know where we’re going, or else getting stuck just means we didn’t know where we were going in the first place.

    This is a wonderful truth!

    Thank you.

  • Lalita says:

    Super analogy Sean. Great questions which are thought provoking. My personal favorite is re: spinning the wheel.
    It is important to go deep within ourself and explore. Often we do get into a rut and rather than be overwhelmed by it, we need to ask the exploratory questions as you have suggested.

    Great post.

    • Sean Glaze says:

      Thanks for sharing, Lalita-
      Better questions always lead to better decisions – and if we don’t have time for reflection, we don’t have time for improvement!

  • Terri Klass says:

    Terrific story to share about getting stuck, Sean! You nailed it with your four questions and I especially liked #2, spinning the same wheels and going nowhere. Sometimes we get caught up in ruts and can’t seem to unglue ourselves. I have found stepping back from the situation and bouncing ideas off of others, can be so helpful. As long as we begin some form of exploration and take action, we will usually find our way. Thanks for a wonderful post!

    • sean glaze says:

      Hi, Terri-
      So true! We often benefit from the perspective of a teammate. Frustration is sometimes a gift – it is a catalyst for refocusing ourselves and ensuring that we change something so we start doing what will get the results we desire…

  • Alli Polin says:

    Great metaphor, Sean! Getting really stuck does feel like the deepest, most awful mud ever. You’ve given us some structure to think through what will help us get out. I’ve found that not only does a partner make a difference but also looking at what’s underneath our mud that is holding us back. Oftentimes, the mud is a symptom of something deeper. Loved this! Look forward to sharing!

    • sean glaze says:

      Thanks for your comment, Ali!
      I agree that our “stuckness” is usually a symptom – whether it is lack of direction and purpose or something else, it does help to have good people around you to move beyond frustrations and find solutions…

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