10 Principles of the Thorn

Comfort isn’t a solution.

Recurring problems fester when comforters win. But, if you allow pain to escalate, change eventually becomes necessary.

Comforters prolong problems.

before you soothe someone's discomfort ask what would you like to do about that.png

Discomfort motivates change.

Motivation declines when you remove discomfort.

Salve is a temporary response, not a solution, to nagging frustrations. The best thing you can do with thorns is dig them out.

10 principles of the thorn:

Avoidance is not an option. 

  1. Successful leaders bring up issues others avoid. Discomfort with discomfort invites you to ignore issues you should address. You can’t engage in transformational conversations by ignoring things. Don’t minimize negative patterns by offering comfort.
  2. Avoid negativity. Focusing on discomfort, without a forward focus, makes you dark and unattractive.
  3. Create pull. Successful leaders run forward more than they run away. The difference is push versus pull.
  4. Reject “you-did-your-best,” excuses. Don’t justify patterns of poor performance by saying, “You did your best.” Falling short is acceptable, only if you reach higher next time.
  5. Don’t ignore discomfort; don’t solve it either. Before you soothe someone’s discomfort ask, “What would you like to do about that?” Transformative conversations always face forward, even if they begin in the past.
  6. Ask, “What’s painful about that?” Don’t rush to comfort when someone brings up painful situations.
  7. Don’t minimize by saying, “It’s not that bad.” It’s better to over-state a problem and solve it than under-state it and live with it.
  8. Begin with what you don’t want; move quickly to what you do want. There’s more to leadership than making something go away.
  9. Offer solutions reluctantly. You prolong helplessness and disengagement when you give solutions.
  10. Extend comfort without validating inaction. Show compassion even while you’re poking at thorns. There’s no excuse for being mean.

Running from discomfort isn’t a long-term strategy.

How might leaders deal with thorns in leaderly ways?

What are the positive and negative aspects of comfort?


I’m delighted to partner with Clarity Development Consulting to offer the proven “Coaching for Engagement” program. Drop me an email if you’d like to explore having Bob Hancox and me come to your organization to develop the coaching skills of your team.