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.
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.
- 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.
- Avoid negativity. Focusing on discomfort, without a forward focus, makes you dark and unattractive.
- Create pull. Successful leaders run forward more than they run away. The difference is push versus pull.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask, “What’s painful about that?” Don’t rush to comfort when someone brings up painful situations.
- 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.
- Begin with what you don’t want; move quickly to what you do want. There’s more to leadership than making something go away.
- Offer solutions reluctantly. You prolong helplessness and disengagement when you give solutions.
- 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.
I wish I had read this list a year ago. It might have saved me from a situation that eventually exploded, and when it did it did not bring out all the best in me.
In particular, I find “Transformative conversations always face forward, even if they begin in the past” to resonate. Orientation is everything, isn’t it.
Thanks Steven. I find the idea that comfort isn’t a cure all a bit challenging. I think I want it to be.
Perhaps the difference between successful leadership and failure is our orientation. Looking backward tends to take us backward. Looking forward tends to move us forward. We go in the direction we look.
These two statements hit home today:
“You can’t engage in transformational conversations by ignoring things.”
“Running from discomfort isn’t a long-term strategy.”
Leaders need to muster up the courage to face the facts in order to plan, lead and succeed.
Thanks Dr. Pinzon. Developing others is one of my main motivations. If you want to encourage growth, you have to deal with reality. It’s easy to say, not so easy to do.
As an institutional analyst, it is my responsibility to bring up the uncomfortable but ignored situations that await action. In non-profits, there is a tendency to minimize and endure the pain for the sake of not hurting anyone. This is not speaking the truth in love and disguises the problem. Rather, recognize the issue, explore possible solutions, and let others recommend a way forward.
As a leader you have to be able to offer, or support, a solution that will provide a solution to the pain. If all you can offer is the same pain, or that pain increased, you will never wean people off comfort.
It amazes me how much leadership and parenting are alike. What I learn in leadership training is easy to use in most relationships. Just don’t get caught by a spouse of doing this. The other issue on dealing with pain is guilt, if you are the one who has caused this.
Quite an interesting post!
Liked your conclusive statement-” Running from discomfort isn’t a long-term strategy”.
‘Procrastination’ and ‘Keeping Silence on the current problems just by ignoring’ can aggravate things at a later date causing much damages. The top management at times has a tendency of overlooking certain problems despite their attention being drawn thinking that with passing of time, things will get subsided or we can fight it out if matters worsen with legal support.
My submission is that if the problems consist of people related issues then these need to be attended immediately by HR to begin with. The concerned top management official should keep an overall check for the corrective actions and intervene whenever required. Conversely, face the consequences at the end and feel sorry for the prior negligence!
How might leaders deal with thorns in leaderly ways?
Coach the person with the thorn to dig deep to find root causes of the problems, identify others sharing in the pain of the thorn, who would be willing to engage in helping to solve it. Coach employee through taking a leadership role themselves in solving the problem. Don’t solve it for them, let them solve it for themselves. The path to creating an empowered, successful organization is to teach employees how to solve problems on their own, without needing to escalate them. Finally, provide recognition when they work to eliminate thorns on their own.
This is a great post! Your point about not solving discomfort for others hits home for me as I often find myself being the “fix it” guy on our team. This can be incredibly stressful (for me) and also doesn’t build or grow our team–it only enables them to not come up with solutions to challenges.
Some interesting points here. I am afraid that I did fall into some of those traps