You took a powerful step forward to redefine your work and make it work for you. Then you hit a roadblock. Maybe you don’t have the formal power to change your job, or your boss put a pin in your efforts. Maybe you do have the autonomy to redefine your work. However, your own expectations of how you use your time or your concern about encroaching on your team holds you back. Or, maybe you met with your manager and asked for more flexibility in your work hours … six weeks ago.

Frustrated, disappointed, angry or perhaps nervous you may have damaged your career. What do you do?

Here are three things you can do to make sure you don’t lose momentum, confidence, and abandon your dreams.

1. Clarify and claim why your journey matters.

When you hit an obstacle on your journey, the first step is to remind yourself why you made the decision to change how you work. Your why is the internal spark that ignited the fire of change. It’s time to revisit your internal spark. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What was the catalyst that prompted you to redefine how and why you work? Was it a meeting, a conversation with your manager, an experience with a client or vendor partner, a project?
  • What’s at stake if you don’t make changes to your job?
  • How will the modifications to your job constructively impact you, your career, and/or your family?
  • What’s the feeling that drove you to start on this journey?
  • What do you really want?

2. Focus your efforts outward.

If you work in a job where you’re required to complete an assigned set of duties in a prescribed way, your challenge is that you don’t have the autonomy and formal power to shape your work. However, there’s something you can do. Focus your efforts outward. You adapt by changing others’ expectations of you. You can do this in three ways: leverage your strengths to create new opportunities, identify and reach out to people who can help you overcome obstacles, and create opportunities for you to design your work and/or build trust with people to create an opening to shape your work.

Ask yourself the following questions to design your work:

  • How can you leverage a strength you’re not using to help your team or division achieve a goal?
  • What strength are you not using that you could start using to help your team or division achieve a goal?
  • How can you use a strength to provide value to your co-workers so they change their opinions of you and see you in a different light?
  • Who on your team, in your company or in your industry knows how to do what you want to change or modify in your job?
  • Who do you need to build trust with or influence to change or modify your job?
  • How will this person you need to build trust with or influence be positively impacted when you make this change or modification to your job?
  • How can you demonstrate that you have the skills and capabilities to do the work you want to do?

3. Have a follow-up conversation.

It’s been weeks since you’ve had the conversation with your manager. Upset and disillusioned, you create a story about your boss’ silence and inaction. They got busy and forgot about the conversation. It’s bad news so they’re avoiding the conversation. It’s a political quagmire that requires extra energy, time, documentation and/or political capital. It could be any, all, or a combination of these reasons. The problem is that you don’t know.

To get what you asked for, you must know the specific cause of the unresponsiveness. And the only way to find out is to have a follow-up conversation. The follow-up conversation will have three parts: state the facts of the situation, share your story about the facts, and ask for your manager’s perspective.

  • You start the conversation with the facts. Facts clarify the topic of the conversation and are more persuasive and less confrontational than stories. A fact is an actual occurrence. It’s what you saw and heard.
  • Then share your story about the facts. Your story addresses why the facts matter to you. It describes your experience of the facts. Use the phrase from Brene Brown, “The story I’m making up … ”
  • The final step is to invite your manager into the conversation. Use an open-ended question. For example, “What am I missing?” or “What’s your perspective?”

Once you know the specific reason why no action has been taken as a result of your conversation, you can problem solve and find a mutually beneficial solution.

The next time you hit a roadblock on your journey to redefine your work, clarify and claim why your journey matters. Then focus your efforts outward and have a follow-up conversation. Don’t let anyone or anything stand between you and your dreams. Any job can be your dream job because you define the dream.