Finding Strength in Frustration

35 years ago Steve Martin played a romantic hero in the iconic movie Roxanne – a throwback I found myself watching last week.

If you aren’t familiar with this movie, Martin’s character, Charlie, has an abnormally large nose that he is frustrated with AND refuses to acknowledge or discuss it with anyone.

It is the elephant in the room wherever he goes (no pun intended), and his lack of self-awareness makes you want to laugh and cry. 

As a coach, I was so struck by his unwillingness to admit the obvious and his high sensitivity to it. As he continued ignoring this insecurity, a domino effect of negative consequences unraveled that, surprisingly, everyone else was aware of but him.

What this can look like in our lives is an intentional lack of awareness, ultimately leading to a denial of our frustrations.

It shows up in the office or at home like:

  • Lack of accountability
  • Defensiveness
  • Hiding
  • Loss of productivity 
  • Disconnection with people
  • Uncoachability
  • Lack of promotability

It’s a lose/lose for everyone.

Why do we do this? 

Renowned Harvard professors, authors and co-founders of Minds at Work, Robert Keegan and Lisa Lahey, have dedicated much of their professional life looking at our patterns at work and what’s behind our greatest productivity and fulfillment. 

In their bestselling book, “An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization”, Keegan and Lahey call this phenomenon “lying, hiding and faking”.

They claim that nearly everyone is doing this second job no one is paying them for—covering their weaknesses, trying to look their best, and managing other people’s impressions of them. 

They also claim that there may be no greater waste of a company’s resources than this. 

The ultimate cost? 

Neither the organization nor its people are ever able to realize their full potential.

What if acknowledging what frustrates us is actually the strongest thing we could possibly do? 

We tend to trust people who know how to do this. 

It’s also the key to peace, confidence, and fulfillment.

So, how do we navigate a new approach to our frustrations? 

It all starts with self-awareness, something we gain when we go looking for the answers no one else can give us. 

One of our favorite gateways to building self-awareness, especially for how you get work done, is Lencioni’s tool Working Genius. This tool helps identify your geniuses and your frustrations, which is KEY to your productivity, happiness, and fulfillment at work.

We see this dilemma with ourselves and with our clients. 

When we give into our culture’s belief that we should be good at everything, it ends up backfiring. We need to make it our job to KNOW what it’s like to be in our sweet spots and to be willing to talk through what it will take to get us there. 

Here’s a start to getting you closer to the dream. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What in my job frustrates me the most? 
  • How do I tend to react to this? 
  • Who am I not empowering because of my inability to acknowledge what I’m not good at?
  • What would I gain, and my team and company gain, if I were able to acknowledge my frustrations?

Loving your work and life again is not only possible, it’s closer than you think. Simply start by admitting what you’re afraid to share and see how that unlocks the potential for more. 

They are waiting :). 

For more on the Working Genius tool and team workshop, email me at [email protected].