Doctor examining patients knee with superimposed text: Addressing Our Pain Points

Part of what life forces us to do is to spend time addressing our pain points. The only question is how long we’re going to wait.

Pain Is A Clue

In our bodies, pain is a clue that something is wrong. Pain in our knee points to a muscular or skeletal problem somewhere. Astute doctors will look not just at the knee, but at the ankle and hip complex as well. They will examine the surrounding joints, ligaments, and muscles. A full diagnostic could reveal that the knee hurts because of a limited range of motion in the ankle.

(This idea often called the joint-by-joint theory).

A few weeks ago, I started to get a pain in my palm. What started out feeling like a bruise soon changed to a hard area and a small bump. I took out some tweezers, pulled back the skin and found a splinter embedded deep in my hand. After a few quick cuts, the splinter was out and my hand felt instantly better. Within a few days, my hand was completely better. Doctor examining patients knee with superimposed text: Addressing Our Pain Points

Pain is a clue that something is wrong.

Understanding Pain

This analogy works in all areas of life. Pain is a clue that something is wrong and we need to spend our time addressing our pain points.

The pain of loneliness, isolation or rejection.

The pain of fear and disappointment.

We all need to address the pain of failure.

The only question is, “Is this going to hurt a lot or a little?”

Eventually, we will be forced to deal with it. Like a painful knee, we might be able to ignore other sources of pain, but it will always have to be addressed.

As the swelling in the knee worsens, so does the pain. We start to use it less. We lose mobility and stability. This makes using the knee more painful, so we try to use it less. Either through medication or a brave trip to the doctor’s office, we will eventually be forced to deal with the pain.

Our lives are all full of painful experiences. Past memories, stories, emotions, and experiences all give us our story. Some are wonderful and joyous. Our wedding, the birth of the children, that long sought after promotion.

Others are more difficult. The divorce, the funeral, the separation, and the unfavorable review.

Addressing Our Pain Points

Addressing our deficiencies is the only way forward. From both personal experience and professional practice I can tell you this with full confidence: the sooner you address a pain point, the less it is going to hurt.

I once spent a year embroiled in a workplace conflict. Well, a sort of conflict. In reality, I spent most of that year running from addressing the pain point. Eventually, it was too late and the relationship was permanently damaged.

It hurt. A lot. Sometimes, it still hurts. I regret the ways in which it soured a potential friendship and broke previous friendship. By the time I got around to addressing my own character deficiencies in the conflict, it was too late and the pain was astronomical.

The next time I was in a workplace conflict, I addressed it right away. I sensed the discord, sought out the person, remedied the problem and reconciled the relationship.

It hurt…but not that much. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Instead, that person and I are still friends. We speak occasionally, think well of each other, and have built up a relationship of mutual respect.

Both hurt. However, one was a small scratch on my journey while the other was a gaping wound.

Eventually, we will all have to deal with our pain points: through counseling, coaching, professional feedback, or numbing the pain with distracting experiences and self-medicating it away. But just like our knee pain, masking the problem with pain doesn’t make it go away. Instead, it lies to us to believe that everything is okay, all the while the damage down to our body and our leadership is deteriorating. 

Conclusion

Pain ultimately cannot be managed, it must be dealt with. It will only be masked for so long before it becomes unmanageable.

May we as leaders resist the urge to deny or numb our pain and instead address it and experience the liberating freedom that follows. Don’t be like my younger self and ignore the pain points in your life. Instead, like a wise doctor, acknowledge that pain is a sign that something is wrong and run a diagnostic test to see once wrong. Once identified, address it, grow from it, and expand your leadership capacity.

Girls running in a field with superimposed text: the importance of play

On our journey to productivity, we must recognize the lighter side of leadership.

The Lighter Side of Leadership

The lighter side of leadership encompasses the play that we need to do as leaders. Unfortunately, this is often something that we forget to do.

Play in children has been shown to, “to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.”

In fact, play is so important to children that it has been declared a basic human right.

However, what we fail to realize is that play is just as necessary, just as vital, and just as beneficial to adults. Somewhere along the way, we forget to play.

Benefits of Play

“Play” as leaders extend the same benefits. Through play, we develop resilience, learn emotional intelligence, group dynamics, and practice grit. Most importantly, as leaders, we discover the benefits of laughing. Laughing lowers blood pressure and pain levels, calms tension, relieves stress, promotes creativity, and aids in the fight against depression. As it turns out, laughter really is the best medicine.

When we as leaders engage in play, both privately and with our teams, we are modeling what holistically healthy leadership looks like. We set the standard that while we take our work seriously, we don’t have to take ourselves seriously.  Girls running in a field with superimposed text: the importance of play

More than that, I’ve also become a firm believer that a team’s ability to play together is one of the easiest tests of true team dynamics and strength. One group was notoriously good at working together … or so they thought. Their meetings were very structured, a lot of agenda items were discussed, and everyone left with a list of tasks to accomplish. 

One day, I suggested that we go out together, as a group, and do something fun. Bowling, laser tag, board games, it didn’t really matter. The point was to do something together as a group that didn’t involve work. What I wanted was this group to play, to experience fun together, to find a lighter side to leadership.

It was rebuffed.

Instantly.

By all of them.

The excuses varied. Some were “too busy.” Some “couldn’t see the point.” The result was the same. This group continued to experience a slow decline in productivity, trust, and goal achievement.

Leaders without play produce leadership without vision.

Bringing in Play

All of the team-consulting activities I bring in involve play. Leadership personality assessments, team-building, corporate revisioning, sales and marketing, all of it requires an element of play. Along the way, we’re going to talk growth strategies and productivity, but not of it happens without play. 

The ability to laugh at ourselves.

To open up and be vulnerable.

A grand discovery that we don’t have all the answers. (One of my personal favorites is team-building from an escape room, if you want to know what that looks like, you can email me here).

In our leadership journey, never forget the importance of play. It keeps us grounded, builds trust with our teammates, and builds the character and grit we need to succeed.

If you want to enjoy a bit of the lighter side of leadership, watch the video below. In this installment of, “The Lighter Side of Leadership” we taste mystery cupcakes and talk about surviving life in quarantine.

Smiling employees with overlay text, "Service with a smile"

In a world increasingly divided and hostile, the best thing we can offer is service with a smile.

The Benefits of Smiling

It’s not something we think about often, but there are benefits associated with smiling. In addition to providing a warm, welcoming demeanor, smiling has other benefits, like:

  • Increased mood
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Aid digestion
  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Decrease pain
  • Stronger immune system Smiling employees with overlay text, "Service with a smile"
  • Create a positive mindset
  • And more!

But here’s the crazy thing. Smiling, scientists have discovered, is contagious. This means that when you smile (and get these benefits), others will too!

Service With A Smile

I remember a conflict I was in with one former employer. He wanted to know why I never smiled at him when he walked into the office. Convinced something was wrong between us, he began to harbor feelings of anger and resentment. It carried into other spheres of working together, and eventually, I was almost written up over it!

The sad truth? My desk faced the doors and I’d often look up, lost in thought. If they walked by, it wasn’t that I was upset, angry, or dismissive of them. I was simply thinking too hard!

But this did cause me to become more aware of my facial expressions towards others. Instead of dismissing those claims, I took them to heart. I want everything I do to be a warm, welcoming place for people to be around.

I made a conscious effort to work on smiling when engaging others. For someone used to being accused of RBF, this was no small challenge. It has been, however, entirely worth it. The effort to put more work into smiling and engaging others has proved useful for business and personal reasons.

Engaging Leadership

One of the great things that smiling does for us as leaders are that it engages others. It marks us as warm, approachable, open, affirming, and in control.

Smiling communicates that we are calm and steadfast.

Providing service with a smile is more than plastering on a fake veneer, it is training our brain, and those around us, to look for the good in all situations.

It demonstrates our ability to work under pressure.

Service with a smile provides reassuring calm in the midst of surrounding storms.

One area I’ve seen this work is in parenting. When I need to have difficult conversations with my children, I make sure to put on a smile. Not to dismiss wrong or correctable behavior, but to let them know that it is okay. Everything is going to work out fine. Sometimes, I even let them know, “I’m not bad, but I do want to talk about what happened.”

This works in the workplace as well. Really, in all areas where we feel called to lead. 

Service with a smile lets others know that we will all get through this together.

Take An Inventory

The easiest way to get started experiencing the benefits of smiling is to smile. The quickest way to get there is to take an inventory.

Where are the moments we struggle with the most? How have we responded? What would we like to do differently?

Start by planning your day, based on how you want to engage the world and what you hope to accomplish with a smile.

Then, think about the common places where you’re interacting with people and write down intentional things you will do to smile and engage them.

One area where I had to work hard (and to be honest, I’m still working at) is to smile when I produce online content. It’s not that I’m unhappy or grump. Instead, it’s that I take seriously my calling to make great content that I get so focused on that that I can forget to enjoy myself.

I’ve started to write down physical notes when I record (or speak live) to smile. It’s actually in my notes, BE SURE TO SMILE HERE.

It engages the audience and creates rapport.

Smiling communicates value.

It demonstrates appreciation.

As leaders, everything we do is monitored. To be at our best, one simple way is to smile.

Creating opportunities for service with a smile transforms our thinking, influences our actions, transforms conflict, creates opportunity, and advances the mission.

Smile on!

Friends with thought bubble cutouts and overlay text "A Failure to Communicate"

The one thing any business owner, entrepreneur, or leader never wants to happen is a failure to communicate clearly.

Why?

As Mark Miller points out in his book Win Every Day, “Communication is the oxygen of execution.”

A Failure To Communicate

In his book, Miller highlights the difference between what is expected of everyone in an organization, and what is expected of leaders.

Everyone in an organization must be concerned with “Helping Others Win.” Leaders have the added burden to “Communicate Tirelessly.”

When it comes to communicating mission, vision, and values, the experience of my own coaching clients bears this out.

One of the points I make repeatedly is the need to over-communicate these key aspects of the business.

Here is the rule we start from: Once you’ve talked about your vision a hundred times, the average employee has heard and understood it less than ten.

Shocking, right?

But it’s true.

One of the great failures of business owners and leaders happens when they think everyone else ‘just gets it.’

They don’t.

As a business owner, you may be passionate and inspired by your vision. Compelled by the mission, you get out of bed every day ready to change the world.

Your average employee doesn’t.

To bring them into the mission and vision you created, it must be shared.

Constantly.
Relentlessly.Friends with thought bubble cutouts and overlay text "A Failure to Communicate"
Effectively.

4 Levels of communication

1.) A Failure to Communicate

The first way we communicate is not at all. Like the famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”

A number of years ago, I shared a meme that reminds me of this. The caption I posted was, “This signifies my day so much”

The meme was of a couple, sitting on opposite ends of the couch. The woman, in her diary, was writing about her the distance her husband had been displaying that day. She had made his favorite meal, and there was not so much as a “Thanks.” involved.

She wanted to go out that night and get dressed up. He seemed disinterested.

She tried to snuggle him and watch tv, he was cold and stand-offish.

The diary continued, wanting to know what the problem was. Was he seeing another woman? Maybe their relationship was in trouble? Did he not love her anymore.”

Then we see his diary. Motorcycle won’t start. Can’t figure out why.

This lack of communication led to marriage trouble that didn’t have to exist, at least as far as the meme was concerned.

I shared it that day because it resonated. If I remember correctly, I had a lot of apologizing to do after that.

2.) Poor Communication

Since we’re on the subject of things I’ve learned the hard way, here’s another one.

A couple of years into our marriage, in the midst of a ‘heated discussion’ my wife finally snapped. “I wish you wouldn’t call me “dear.” You only say that when you’re angry with me.”

Lesson learned

Sometimes we communicate. We just do it poorly. The wording is wrong. The metaphor doesn’t work. The imagery fails. It happens when I speak (more than I’d like to admit) and it happens when we share the vision with others.

Business owners just as frequently communicate poorly.

Every time a business owner shares company values but doesn’t practice them, there is poor communication.

When a business leader excuses poor language, crude humor, or angry outbursts as “their personality”, poor communication is experienced.

3.) Base Communication

Assuming you as a leader don’t want to fail to communicate or communicate poorly, what are the other options?

The first is base-communication. But let’s be clear upfront, this is still not considered good communication.

It’s the bare minimum required to get any given task accomplished.

Base level communication is, “John I need you to send me that report.” Why? “Because I said so.”

The job gets done. You will get the report emailed to you, but it’s hardly exhilarating leadership.

Base-communication cares about one thing: results. But, as great leaders know and practice, we care about more than results.

First, we care about people over projects.

Second, we make intentional investments into new leaders.

So where does that leave us as leaders wanting to do more, be more, and have more?

4.) Over-Communication

Over-communicating is people inspiring, mission clarifying, and value-enhancing. Over-communicating looks at more than the task or the goal, it examines the heart of the person we are speaking with.

The best leaders we know practice the art of over-communicating. They speak clearly, concisely, and contextually. Great leaders know how to get at both the heart of the matter and the heart of the person quickly. Excellent communicators know what it means to elevate others and embrace the mission.

Over-communication requires commitment, bravery, and an extreme commitment to service.

The Case to Over-Communicate

To win the hearts of those around, the only way forward is to over-communicate. But note that over-communication is not micro-managing. It does not over. It does not belittle. And it does not de-value.

Over-communication accentuates the positive. It brings out the best in others. Over communication sparks light and life in those that are listening.

Over-communication holds unwaiverlingly to the idea that everyone can witn.

When we over-communicate with our spouse, employees, team-members, and friends we bring value and honor to their personhood.

And as we’ve already seen:

Communication is the oxygen of execution.

Stock and Computer overlay with text "Intentional Investment"

The greatest thing we can do every single day is to make an intentional investment into those around us.

The recent world pandemic of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) reminds us of the fragility of financial investments.

Will the stock market recovery? Absolutely. Eventually.

But this also reminds us of the need to invest in relationships.

One thing that pays immediate dividends and lasts forever is investing in people. Finding, developing, resourcing, and equipping future leaders around us is always worth the investment. 

Growth Happens Here

When I work businesses, especially entrepreneurs or solopreneurs, this becomes an emphasis of our coaching time. Stock and Computer overlay with text "Intentional Investment"

In the beginning, all work is done by the owner. As anyone who has started a business. In addition to being the owner, they were also the sales team, marketing department, human resource contact, janitor, and security guard.

The business grows, and it comes time to hire a new employee.

This can be scary. Someone who is used to doing it all can be hesitant to give something up. The fear is that the new person won’t do it as well.

Hint: That’s probably true.

But that doesn’t mean we avoid hiring. Instead, it means we get intentional about hiring. We look for people willing to be invested in.

Instead of capping growth at the original owner/banker/marketer/sales/do-it-all-yourself we find ways to offload burdensome tasks to someone else.

The owner focuses on the core activities of the business, the things that only he or she can do to help the business grow. We create a hiring profile based on those other tasks. The ones that are important, maybe even vital to the organization, but something that can be done by someone else.

In the coaching process, we work through four quadrants and have the owner visualize where the growth needs to happen.

The last step is always people investing. That’s where we see the greatest return on investment.

Intentional Investment

What does intentional investment look like? It can take many forms:

  • An encouraging word or letter of thanks
  • Educational support
  • Mentoring/Coaching
  • Professional Development seminars
  • Sharing hard-won battles or industry secrets

In sum, Intentional investing happens anytime we are purposeful about shortening the learning curve between where someone is at and personal mastery.

Previously, we have looked at what it means to choose people over projects.

This goes one step beyond that.

More than just the relationship, we care about the growth of the person.

Ready to invest in someone else? Here are three ways to seek out relationships for intentional investment.

3 Ways to Cultivate a Life of Intentional Investment

1.) Intentionally Create Calendar Space

Personally, I’ve stopped using the phrase, “I don’t have time.” I’ve discovered that I’m always willing to make time for things in my life that really matter. If you want to find the time, you never will. Ultimately, that’s because you don’t value it enough. Create calendar time to intentionally cultivate relationships.

2.) Find a bit of yourself in the other person.

In many ways, the coaching field is full of coaches who utilize their time to help others that are like them. I know this is true of me personally and several of my other coaching friends. We coach what we have come out of, or where we see ourselves going.

Mentoring. Connecting. Investing in others all look like this as well. Find someone who reminds you of you at a younger age and guide them towards maturity. What are the things you wish you’d know at that age? That’s the perfect place to start.

3.) Create a compounding vision of success

Albert Einstein is attributed with saying that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. However true this is, I believe our ability to invest in others is even more powerful. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, people have been hoarding items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. There are even videos online of fistfights erupting over these items.

One thing we never want to hoard is information, transformation, or success. I firmly believe there is enough for everyone. In a world that says, “There’s only enough for one of us if you have it then I can’t.” I choose to fight against that.

There is enough happiness, joy, success, wealth, insight, talent, and ability for us all to succeed.

Instead of seeking out compounding interest, seek out compounding wins of success and personal investment in others. Their gratitude, your joy, and the world’s need for positivity will all thank you.

Justin’s note: During this trying time of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic I am doing my part to give back.

1.) If you want a free downloadable of 50 ways to practice self-care click this link.

2.) If you have been impacted by the COVID0-19 virus as an employee or business owner, I’m giving away free coaching. Go here to apply.