Square Peg, Round Hole: Know When to Move On

We are creatures of habit. So much so, in fact, we sometimes find ourselves pursuing completion for completion’s sake. Whether in relationships, work endeavors, or leadership capacities, many of us try to make something work when it should be forfeited. Maybe, you’re too far in the game and feel you’ve already invested too much time and money to quit a current project. Maybe you stuck your neck out for that up-and-coming top talent, but he or she just isn’t making the cut. Or, maybe you’re adamant on succeeding in your current role against all odds. Because of our habitual nature, we tend to keep trying the same thing, yet continue to expect different results. Sooner or later, you need to cut your losses and stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Not the Right Project
Planning ahead in business is crucial to success in the current, fast-paced work environment. Setting goals for where we want to go and what we want to accomplish is the first step in building a vision for your team. However, the minute details of what it takes to satisfy the goals you’ve set for your company is where things can get dicey. In this stage, it is vital to remain fluid in your approach by continually examining whether the current project will help you reach the end goal or is, simply put, a fox hole. Is the media campaign you’ve poured numerous resources into not yielding the outcome you expected? Is the IT department’s new mobile app not making your customer’s experience easy? Are consumers not biting at the new product you’re pushing? It may be time to scrap the project and start over.

Not the Right Employee
Success doesn’t stop at having the right vision. A successful organization has an effective team that implements the vision through your leadership and delegation. And one characteristic of a successful team is the willingness to buy into that vision. Due to a growing epidemic in the modern professional landscape, businesses are infected with disengagement. In fact, according to Gallup, only 29% of workers in the U.S. and Canada are engaged. That’s seven out of 10 employees in your workforce who have checked out at work. Moreover, there are some workers who may have misrepresented themselves and don’t have the skills needed to perform required tasks. According to The Society of Human Resource Managers, 53% of resumes and job applications have falsifications, and 70% of college students surveyed say they’d lie on a resume to get hired. Sometimes, the hardest gaffe a leader has to admit to is a hiring mistake. Whether they are going through the motions or never had the qualifications for the job in the first place, these two groups of people can derail any organization. It may be time to reboot your team with improved engagement practices and training opportunities.

Not the Right Job
Sometimes the best leaders can be the worst components of an organization. Great leaders possess the vision and charisma to push teams beyond their talents and skills toward success. However, sometimes, a great manager struggles to find success in specific positions. Whether due to a company culture misfit or a different communication approach, it’s possible for a successful person to hit a wall where in the past seemed to be all open doors. As a leader, you have to put your team first, and that means not just thinking about what’s right for you, but also what’s best for your organization. Or maybe you aren’t in a leadership position yet, but aspire to be. According to CareerBuilder, 51% of employed 2014 college grads are in jobs that don’t require a college degree, and only 34% of currently employed workers aspire to leadership positions. Maybe they don’t see a way to move up in their organizations and, instead, have settled for underemployment. Whether you’ve been in the workforce for 30 days or 30 years, changing positions or organizations may be the best thing for you to flourish as a leader.

Square Peg, Round Hole
For whatever reason, we sometimes find ourselves forcing something to work when it clearly isn’t meant to be. Like a young child playing with blocks, even the best leaders can get trapped trying to push a square peg through a round hole when it’s obviously designed for a different purpose. Sooner or later, you have to cut your losses, move on, and pursue success using the appropriate building blocks for the situation.

Have you found yourself forcing something to work? How have you let go of an impossible situation and moved on? Let us know in the comments section below!

Refresh Leadership is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.


  1. Back to Basics: Be a More Effective Leader in 2015 | Express SA Blog - January 5, 2015

    […] The most difficult aspect of trials and hardships is the unpredictable. When a project fails or an issue arises, it often occurs when you were expecting the opposite. That’s why problems carry such a heavy burden for the parties involved. When you expected a win, a loss can be devastating to a team—and sometimes hard to recover from. Though it is good to have high expectations for your organization, it is also great to operate under Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. No one can predict the future, but you can plan for the worst. When developing your yearly plan or employee development techniques, try and picture every outcome, including personal shortcomings, project holdups, and employee turnover, as well as simple solutions for each problem. Should these issues arise, you and your team will be able to push past them and get back on track. […]

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