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.

Compass and Map with overlay text, "Compelled by something greater."

The best leaders are always compelled by something greater. Something that is beyond them. Driven by something just out of reach, they are striving for new growth and new opportunities.

Great leaders, in short, are driven by a vision.

Guided By Vision

Vision drives great leaders.

Vision also drives great business. 

It’s popular in the business world to talk about three closely related things: mission, vision, and values.

And while similar, they are distinctly diCompass and Map with overlay text, "Compelled by something greater."fferent. All are needed and all are necessary. However, they should not be equated to the same thing.

Michael Hyatt, in his book The Vision Driven Leader, makes the following distinction:

“Both mission and vision inform strategy but in different ways. Mission provides day-to-day clarity by defining the identity and scope of the business. Without a clear mission, you can easily drift off target and head into either too many directions, or the wrong direction…A proper Vision Script is…a robust document, written in the present tense, that describes your future reality as if it were today.”

This is a helpful distinction and provides clarity for where we’re headed.

Values – The moral and ethical code the leader or the business operates by. This is integrity in the personal and business sphere. A list of words (usually 5-10) that are non-negotiable.

Mission – The identity of the leader or business, defined by the practice and day-to-day operations. This is usually a sentence or two that provides strategy and action principles for the organizational culture.

Vision – The future destination of the leader or business. A full, robust manuscript that has actualized success and invites the readers into a compelling narrative of what could be as if it has already happened. This is usually much longer, much larger, and much more integrated.

Make It Compelling

Truly great leaders are able to draw people into their vision of the future. Their vision of the future is compelling, motivating, inspiring, and equipping. It guides other people into proper ways of thinking and doing.

Think of a vision board on steroids.

It’s large, comprehensive, and transformative. Vision creates the principles by which the mission is executed and the values are maintained.

A compelling vision removes any doubt about the direction we’re going and as well as irradicating the opportunity for settling or stopping short of the goal.

A vision statement covers all aspects of personhood or business to make sure that nothing is missed or left to chance.

3 Steps For Creating A Compelling Vision

1.) Take the Necessary Time

This is not a quick process. A compelling vision doesn’t happen overnight. It may not even happen in a weekend. It’s an intentional time of focus, reflection, integration, and prospecting.

Creating a compelling vision means carefully crafting words, feelings, and desires into a language that motivates, inspires, and equips.

2.) Suspend Doubt and Judgment

Too often, we are our own worst critics. We want to achieve great things but are plagued by doubt and fear.

Great leaders with a compelling vision have been able to squelch that voice.

Don’t be limited in your imagining of the future. Your current reality or availability does not determine your final destination. In the future vision, you have unlimited resources, ability, people, and technology to meet your goals.

Avoid limiting language and limiting belief. Hold space that all things are possible. Ignore the voice that tells you to play small or live in fear.

3.) Firmly Believe The Best Is Yet To Come

To craft a truly compelling and transforming vision, we must hold firmly to the belief that the best is yet to come. The products we create, the people we help, the influence we have, the legacy we leave. All of that grows and expands over time. Unleashing a force of good, we continually reach new heights, meet new expectations, and bless new people.

We must remain certain that the best is yet to come. We embrace the challenge of leaving the world a better place and know that by fulfilling the vision we are writing we will do so.

Where Are You Going?

Ultimately, the question for everyone is, “Where are you going?” For leaders, this is especially important.

No one drifts towards greatness. If we don’t pursue it intentionally, we will never reach it.

Failure to clearly articulate our desired vision of the future means we will never have it.

If we can’t firmly affix our steps to a larger purpose, we will never have one.

 

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.

Whiteboard business hierarchy with overlay text: People over projects

As a goal-focused person, one of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn was to choose people over projects.

A Changing Perspective

Several years ago, while living in Denver, I was helping to lead the church I belonged to through a transition. We were tasked with taking years of established tradition and creating something new. We had to honor the old while adapting and evolving into something new.

Honor the past.

Build the future.

As with any such endeavor, emotions were high. There were literally people still on the attendance roster that were there when the church started. With member number one still active, I literally had someone who could tell me in all seriousness, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Whiteboard business hierarchy with overlay text: People over projects

How do you handle the need for change without destroy what has been? How can we, as leaders, honor and celebrate the past while creating something new? Something beautiful? Something expansive?

We choose the people over the projects.

People Over Projects

I remember the moment this crystalized for me. I was sitting in the living room with my wife after I had received some negative and unfair criticism. In that situation, my natural inclination is to fight back. To wound. I wanted to hurt them the way I had been hurt.

But I also knew that I had to model something different. If those I was trying to serve were ever going to see the picture I was trying to paint, I’d have to expose them to something different.

So I mentioned to my wife, “I don’t know how to respond yet, but if I win this battle but lose the relationship, I’ve lost everything of significance.”

That sparked this idea of “People Over Projects.”

Together, we can do so much more than we can on our own. As leaders, we are called to not just lead our people, but to serve them as well.

Leading Our Teams

I have seen this idea now play out over the last seven years in a variety of fields, locations, teams, and organizations. The truth has remained. Leaders who are willing to choose the health of their employees and relationships over the bottom line numbers end up winning.

Leaders that care more about profit than people end up having neither.

Why?

Because no one will follow a leader that makes them feel dispensable. Great employees, excellent team members, world-class staff all have one thing in common: a leader that believes, inspires and equips.

Leaders that are willing to choose people over projects see amazing results in all categories.

Three Tips For Growth

Looking for ways to choose people over projects? Look no further! Here are three of my best tips to help you:

1.) Focus on people-development.

As leaders, we should always be concerned with how our people are growing. 

We also need to realize that people have lives outside of work.

An owner of a business once told me that he was willing to work 24-hours a day on his business and he expected the same from his employees.

Employees usually did .. early on during the honeymoon phase. Once that time period ended, however, employees wanted their normal lives back. Family dinners were missed. Vacations postponed. Weekend naps interrupted. 

Excelling leaders care about the whole-being of their people, not just the 9-5 shift they are working.

One way you can do this is to help your people get the right things done. When the 9-5 is taken care of effectively, they are free to enjoy their life outside of the cubicle.

2.) Focus on the right numbers.

Number matter. The problem is that we tend to focus on the right numbers. Built off of the last point, look for numbers where people are growing.

Sales are a by-product of other things done right.

Do you want better sales? Provide better customer service.

Want better customer service?

Invest in your customer service employees.

When Bill feels valued, appreciated, and integral to the health of the company, he works with more clarity, more integrity, more intensity, and greater levels of satisfaction.

The customer feels that and responds.

Even though Bill isn’t in sales, he directly affects the bottom line and the sales numbers.

Like the janitor that believed in NASA’s mission when approached by JFK with the question of what he was doing responded, “I’m putting a man on the moon.”

He bought into a larger mission and saw what was at the time beyond him.

3.) Don’t be afraid to try something new.

I’ve always found it funny that leaders are criticized for discovering a new idea or reading a new book and trying to implement it. One of the criticisms I’ve often heard is, “You’re just trying this because you learned a new skill in a book.”

Of course, I am.

That’s how learning works!

Learning is about discovering new ideas and implementing what works. But how will we know what works if we don’t give something new a try?

Maybe for you, that directly relates to your people. Maybe you want (or need) coaching for you or your team.

Or maybe it’s a new concept, time-saving strategy, or brainstorming topic.

Perhaps the conference you just attended wants you to offer more flexible working hours and you’re convinced to give it a try.

Whatever it is, go for it!

Involve your people. Offer to create an experiment (scientists do this because they don’t know or can’t guarantee the final result) and tweak what didn’t work.

Whatever it is, just keep trying. Push through fear and criticism and lead boldly.

Conclusion

Every day we are presented with a list of objectives. As a goal-oriented person, and a success coach, much of what I do is help people reach their goals, push through obstacles, and experience success.

But we must also remember that we never choose projects over people. We need each other, go farther together, and ultimately only ever find lasting success when it can be shared.