Scott Case: Why we're feeling stuck at work and what to do about it - DC

Professional Development

Dec. 4, 2020 10:58 am

Scott Case: Why we’re feeling stuck at work and what to do about it

"Save yourself from yourself": The entrepreneur on the importance of mental health for leaders, with added insight from Advancing Inspiration, LLC founder and CEO Susan Kerr.
Scott Case.

Scott Case.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Scott Case, CEO and cofounder of Upside Business Travel and founding CTO of It appears here as part of a partnership with DC Startup Week 2020.

If you’re a leader who is struggling to break through to the next level, motivate your team, or achieve results in line with your goals, you are not alone.

Here’s how to identify what might be stopping you and how to get things back on track.

It’s OK to feel stuck.

Many leaders tend to be relentless, determined, and exacting individuals who set goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them. The ironic thing is that, as high achievers, leaders tend to see themselves as invincible.

We’re not. And that’s OK.

Lebron James misses free throws. Selena Gomez doesn’t always hit the perfect note. And Jimmy Fallon’s jokes don’t always make the room erupt with laughter. Coming up a little short now and then is natural for everyone. Even for people at the top of their craft.

First step: Acknowledge our imperfections. Only then can we right the ship and overcome whatever obstacle is in our way.

Save yourself from yourself.

We hear it on airplanes every single time before takeoff — in the event of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first. Because if you’re passed out, you’re no help to the person next to you.

The same principle applies in leadership.

We are all susceptible to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, fear, and depression — no matter your race, gender, or age.

As leaders, we need to find ways to process our feelings or else we cannot help anyone else. If we’re not taking care of our personal needs, our team won’t have access to the best version of us. And then everyone’s productivity will suffer.

We can start by setting the expectation with ourselves that we will be honest in how we’re  feeling. Our mental health is important to our team’s performance. Ask questions like:

  • How well am I taking care of myself?
  • When was the last time I really unplugged or took time off?
  • How much am I holding inside and not sharing with others?

Sometimes, we just need to give ourselves permission for some self-care and we see an improvement in our productivity.

  • Start a journal to capture thoughts and feelings.
  • Consider hiring a business or life coach.
  • Talk to a past mentor or a family member to share with.

When in doubt, H.A.L.T.

Never underestimate the effect our physiology can have on our productivity at work.


During DC Startup Week in September, I was reminded of this while point while catching up with Susan Kerr, a friend and colleague who is CEO of Alexandria, Virginia’s Advancing Inspiration, LLC.

Susan Kerr. (Photo via LinkedIn)

She shared a great piece of advice for leaders who are feeling stuck:

“One of the things I do is called, H.A.L.T. — Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Am I hungry? I need to eat. Am I angry? I need to deal with my anger. Am I lonely? I may need to reach out to a healthy person that can be my pal and just listen to me say I’m lonely. Am I tired? I might need to go to sleep, right? I might need to take a break. I might need to have some rest. That is a huge tool for me.”

Sit still every once in a while.

Many leaders pride themselves on their ability to do it all. But that ambition and tendency to take on too much can actually be a detriment to achieving your goals. Another key to getting unstuck is to focus on the right thing.

When you get really clear on the one thing you can do today that will have the greatest impact on your success, it is empowering. It allows you to pour all of your energy into the priority that will accelerate your success, and ignore everything else that is less important.

So on Monday morning, rather than jumping right into email or Slack, take time at the beginning of the day to sit quietly — ideally with paper and pen — and think about your current priorities. Then, force-rank them in terms of importance and value to your business. It may seem like a simple, five-minute exercise, but I guarantee it will change the entire trajectory of your day, your week, and ultimately your year.

Be aware of how we show up.

I keep a mirror on my desk. Not because I’m vain, but because I’m aware that my presence affects my team. If I show up looking tired or unkempt on a Zoom call, I’m sending negative impressions out to my team.

As a leader, it’s our responsibility to demonstrate to our team that we’ve got it together.

Walk the walk.

I recently took an actual day off — a real day off. I don’t respond to email. I set my calendar to “Out of Office.”

If I don’t take time for myself, my team may feel they are not able to unplug even if they do take a few days here and there. I know part of it is also demonstrating that I have complete trust in their leadership.

Leaders are vulnerable.

Having “Chief” or “Chairperson” or “VP” in our email signature does not make us a leader. Job titles simply indicate that someone is in a position to lead.

A true leader is someone who respects everyone, trusts their team and values relationships. In fact, I believe that there are at least 11 behaviors of exceptional leaders.

Ultimately, leadership is a never-ending practice that challenges us every day. But the greatest risk to success is how we support ourselves.

Each of us needs to take the time to put our own mask on first.

For more ideas to help you grow and scale your business, and to listen to the full interview between Susan and Scott, check out the “You Need to Put Your Mask on First” episode of the Founders Focus podcast.

People: Scott Case
Projects: DC Startup Week

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