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Taking Action – The Only Way Out is Through

Fifteen years ago, I quit my corporate job to start Candid Culture. I had almost no business relationships or contacts outside of my corporate job. Thinking I should network, I registered to attend the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) National Conference in Las Vegas. It’s the largest HR conference in the world; approximately 15,000 people attend. I flew to Las Vegas to attend the conference but I was so terrified about my new undertaking, I spent three days in bed, ordering bad room service, paralyzed by fear. I barely left my hotel room and attended almost none of the conference.

Last week I spoke at that same conference – the SHRM National Conference – also in Las Vegas, to an in-person audience of 750 people. Things have come full circle.

When something feels big and I’m not sure what to do, I do nothing. And my hunch is I’m not alone. The key to getting through anything large, scary, or intimidating is to start. Any action will do. The key is simply taking action.

taking action on your goals

Here are five actions you and your manager can take to make taking action more likely:

Action #1:  What often stands in the way of taking action is that we aren’t sure what to do. Perhaps we aren’t sure we can do the task at hand. Or we can’t see what the end result should look like. Or the project feels so big that even thinking about starting is tiring. Ask questions and ask for help.

Most managers aren’t great delegators. When assigning a project, managers often ask, “Do you have any questions?” This is an ineffective question because few people want to admit to having questions about a project that feels so big, all they want to do is avoid it. Or managers ask, “What do you need from me?” when most people have no idea what they need.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you’re clear about what a good job looks like, and ask for help.

Action #2: Managers, ask better questions. Rather than asking if employees have questions, ask, “What’s your plan? What are you doing to do first? What are you doing to do next?” These questions will tell you what employees know and don’t know. Asking, “Do you have any questions” or “does this make sense” tells you nothing.

Action #3:  Do one small thing, anything, towards achieving the goal. And do it now. Don’t wait until the right time. There is no right time.

Action #4: Managers, delegate projects with multiple, short deadlines. Ask to review work as it’s completed versus when the entire project is due.

Action #5:  Give yourself small windows of time to work on a project. If you give yourself 30 uninterrupted minutes to work, you’re likely to invest that time. If you dedicate a day, you’re likely to get distracted and fill the time with other things.

Trust that you can do what’s in front of you. Someone wouldn’t have asked you to do something if they’d didn’t have confidence that you could do it. And if this is a goal you set for yourself, and it’s something you really want, deep down, you know you’re capable of doing it.

If you’re overwhelmed or don’t believe you can do something, call someone who has more faith in you than you have in yourself. Let that person fill you with confidence until you can generate it for yourself. When I started Candid Culture, I was filled with fear and quite honestly, was convinced I was going to fail. But everyone around me believed I could do it. And their confidence carried me until I could generate my own.

taking action on your goals


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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One Response to “Taking Action – The Only Way Out is Through”

  1. Alisa Capretta says:

    I LOVED your presentation at SHRM. I recorded several snippets on my phone and have listened to them over the weekend…trying to gain strength and be brave. Thank you for all of your guidance you shared.

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