It’s normal to live your life trying to avoid pain. It’s much more socially acceptable to embrace happiness as the goal for your life and all marketers (myself included) reinforce this philosophy by touting the benefits of products and services to help you achieve it.
But that’s not the path of leadership. I wish it was. However, the sooner we embrace the truth that leadership is hard, tough and painful, the better prepared and equipped we will be. Sure, there are moments of happiness and excitement that come with being surrounded by good people and accomplishing goals together but that’s usually not the day-to-day reality.
My pain comes from people. I’m a classic people-pleaser and I usually avoid conflict at all costs. Tense situations or difficult conversations especially around grey areas are stressful for me. Things like talking about salaries with employees, discussing performance issues, dealing with negative client feedback, implementing a strategy that will be unpopular with some people or discussing missed expectations with friends and family.
Wherever your source of pain, here are four ways to develop better Leadership Pain Tolerance.
1. Embrace the pain. In Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Integrity, one of his concepts is about “Embracing the Negative.” I used to think that negative or tough situations were a result of something I was doing wrong. That’s not the case. Cloud, a clinical psychologist, reinforces that negative situations will always be a reality for leaders but how you deal with those negative situations determines what type of leader you will be. Do you avoid these situations? Do you overreact and let them spoil your mood? Do you procrastinate over resolving them? Stop finding fault or causes and start finding solutions.
2. Keep the outcome in mind. I don’t want to engage in conflict with an unhappy client but I do want to create a great relationship with our clients. Visualizing that client a few years from now, ecstatic about the results and having fun with their CREW is what motivates me to pick up the phone or visit them to work out differences. The future positive outcome always outweighs the current temporary pain. Visualizing yourself in that swimsuit or receiving compliments on your new body will help you push yourself in the gym or to avoid that extra dessert you don’t need.
3. Create an action plan. Even if it’s a small issue I make an Action Plan. Write it out on a notepad and then book the meeting or take the next step to deal with it. There’s a lot of power in writing something down, understanding what’s involved and seeing what needs to be done. State the issue at the top and the two or three next steps that you need to take to resolve it. Then keep that on your desk or in a visual area that will remind you to deal with it.
4. Be aggressive and attack it. Procrastination, fear, time and worry are your enemies. Don’t let them win. This doesn’t mean your approach in resolving the issue is aggressive but it means rolling up your sleeves and dealing with it – FAST. It’s a battle of your mind and will and great leaders build a tolerance for winning that battle day by day.
Building Leadership Pain Tolerance is not easy work but it’s necessary for success. My hope is that over time, we are like corporate Navy Seals who embrace pain, push through it and make our companies safer, more productive, and great places to thrive.
Have a great day!