Damn that Hurts…

The trouble with pain is ignoring it. Toothaches begin as dull twinges. Tumors are coughs. Before long, fillings are root canals and tumors are death.

Pain is a slow sunrise, quiet. But, noon always comes. Listen to pain in the morning; don’t wait for noon.


Life without pain is death.

Leaders courageously listen for pains voice. Delay invites damage. Toothaches and tumors never magically go away. Pain is not the enemy. Invite it in for a chat. “Damn that hurts.”

The role of pain:

  1. Pain screams something’s wrong but doesn’t solve or correct.
  2. Pain points to symptoms not root problems.
  3. Pain is a consequence not a cause, at least at first.
  4. Pain succeeds when we look for causes and cures.
  5. Pain solves when stopping is enough.
  6. Everything that hurts isn’t bad.


“Just make it stop,” is a distraction. Leaders look through pain to find real issues.

Underperforming employees are the toothache, but the root problem may be organizational, for example. Correcting underperformers may provide surface solutions; developing organizations capacities provides deep cures.

Dull ache:

You’re feeling dull aches that suggest intervention.

  1. Relational aches.
  2. Staff malfunctions.
  3. Inner dissatisfaction.
  4. Customer distress.
  5. Procedure failures.


  1. Point out pain-points and ask, “What’s behind this issue?”
  2. “Is it escalating or deescalating?”
  3. “Does this situation require intervention? Why or why not?”
  4. “What are you doing about it?”
  5. “How can I help?”
  6. “Can we solve this with current or new procedures?”
  7. “Tell me more next week.”

All leaders have stories of toothaches that turned to root canals and tumors that killed.

I’m not ready means it doesn’t hurt enough.

Leaders don’t address every issue; they give space for others to find solutions. However, leaders always monitor pain-points. Don’t pretend they’ll go away.

Do you tend to delay too long, act too quick, or move-in on pain-points at just the right moment?

How do you address pain-points?