Pain is Necessary and Good
Life eventually hardens like arteries unless there’s painful intervention.
Positive statements affirm us. Negative statements change us. Furthermore, compliments and affirmations validate the past and solidify the present. But, crisis, criticism and corrections change us.
Spencer Johnson correctly observes, “Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.”
Don’t fix pain-points too soon; making them go away short circuits growth, limits potential, and solidifies the present.
How much is too much? When should organizational frustrations be quickly solved rather than worked through?
Solve now or work through:
- Are you willing to courageously state the brutal facts?
- Will a long-term approach cause permanent damage?
- Are current team members willing to rise to new challenges with training, mentoring, or coaching?
- Can you apply new resources to old challenges?
- Do current pain-points indicate it’s time to stop? Sometimes success is about stopping; less is more.
Crisis initiates transformation. For example, an economic downturn may unnerve leadership enough to consider tangible innovation. Pain makes changing trajectory possible.
Learning and change:
Learning requires change. Learning is change. Therefore, learning is central to transformation. You create learning opportunities when you:
- Embrace systems thinking – look at your organization as an integrated whole. Innovation emerges when silos integrate.
- Honor and reward mastery of new skills and behaviors.
- Channel energy toward agreed upon outcomes. Vision motivates learning. Shared vision infuses learning with purpose.
- Enhance the team – adding to and developing your team lifts organizations above the limitations of individuals.
- Focusing on what not who – stagnant organizations look to the same resources, individuals, and internal structures for innovative ideas. Look for ideas up, down, and outside your organization.
Warning: learning cultures may destabilize internal power structures that frequently maintain the status quo.
How can leaders leverage pain-points?
What are the dangers of allowing pain-points to hang on?
Another great post, Dan.
There is great wisdom in your statement: Don’t fix pain-points too soon; making them go away short circuits growth, limits potential, and solidifies the present.
Sometimes we think we’re helping others by taking away the pain, when in fact, we are preventing their growth -in leadership, friendship and parenthood.
I have learned personally for myself, that when I am willing to experience pain and not be so quick to defend, eventually the pain transforms to growth, knowledge and freedom.
Thanks for your encouraging and insightful comment.
Your comment helps me see that defensiveness is one way we try to “fix” pain-points. That helps me.
Best wishes with your endeavors,
Jesse is co-author of “Full Steam Ahead” a powerful and insightful book on creating sustainable vision.
Dan – leaders can leverage pain by first getting each of their Team Members to embrace a lifelong learning mentality and approach to life. Even when we “arrive” at some capability, the rules will change and we’ll no longer be where we think we have reached.
One way leaders can instill this kind of life approach is to encourage each person to develop a life plan. With a life plan as a skeleton outline, they can chart a course for personal growth and development in various areas (keeping in mind their current life stage and circumstances…read Bruce B Miller’s book, Your Life In Rhythm).
Leaders will put punch into this by modeling it themselves in front of those they lead.
Your wonderful comment challenges me. I don’t have a life plan other than be generous and see what happens. I bet you help people develop a life plan.
Thanks for the reminder that leaning is a journey not a stopping place.
Have a great wee,
Dan, I absolutely LOVE helping people develop a life plan!
I completely agree with and really appreicate the insight here. One thought though, Spencer Johnson’s definition of when change happens is an entirely reactionary one (brilliant for helping to wake up those who slumber) but leaves out those whose responsibility it is to predict, initiate and encourage transformation. For them, possibly, could we say that “Change happens when a person values the challenge of preparing for the future, over the comfort of resting in the present” ?
Just a thought…
Right on! I’m delighted you point out a proactive vs. a reactive approach to transformation.
I think vision is one driver of this type of positive transformation.
Leaders leverage pain points, only when their vision for these points is transformed from pain points to opportunities to transform from old systems, habits, or structures to a new reformed manner.
Danger is when hesitation occurs, you have identified the pain point as an opportunity and then you go through a process of transformation where you identify the exact opportunity. But then comes your hesitation
Your comment is a needed push to maintain and fuel positive momentum.
It’s odd that once we think we understand something we have the feeling we’ve actually done something.
Lets keep asking, “What’s next?”
Interesting I wrote a post(http://www.leaderexperiment.com/root-of-all-workplace-evil-is/) yesterday and said
“A question which every manager should ask every day.
What one pain can I remove today?”
While what you say makes sense, that there needs to be pain for people to change. Also called the sense of urgency, but I have noticed that managers too often are not removing pains of people and that is a big problem.
Solving pain of people, leads to admiration and empathy which is a prerequisite for following a leader.
I think you just flipped the coin and wisely point out the other side of pain-points; they demotivate if we don’t do something about them.
Your comment reminds me of a Drucker quote about how managements makes it difficult for people to get things done.
The insights in your article are very true. Most people and organisations only learn when the pain of what they continue to do are too much to bear any longer. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this – we can all decide to learn through love and trust instead. It takes a simple change of mindset to achieve this, but it is so the road less travelled!
Love it! Follow what you love. Nicely said.
Dan. Another insightful post. I’ve experienced it in both my personal and professional lives. Pain and challenge are a necessary part of life if growth is to occur. Without it, stagnation and complacency set it.
It’s amazing how we keep need to rediscovering this ancient piece of wisdom. The oldest references that I know are in the Bible (fire purifying gold) and one of the more well known modern references is the Toyota Production System, which uses pain to drive improvement.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks for adding both some ancient and modern support for the positive potential of pain.
When I read the “I’ve experienced” part of your comment, it makes me feel like we are fellow travelers.
Best to you,
“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Pain can be addressed by action. Inaction leads to suffering. Suffering is unnecessary, and often counterproductive. Pain is an indicator that what you have isn’t working, so take action to do something different. Or to do something differently.
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