The Law of Pain – Good Management of Bad Experiences Leads to Great Growth
“Life is not the way it is supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference” – Virginia Satir
When we are individual contributors we like to complain about how bad the situation is, how processes are broken, and blame management on all our problems. We like to play the victim role and wait for the knight in shining armor to save us.
As a leader how would you handle these cases?
Here’s my answer.
Great leaders serve and connect with their people.
Regardless of my daily mood and energy, I have made it a habit of reading the mood of the people I work with. The usual “how are you doing” doesn’t cut it for me. I’m more of a “how’s life?” kind of guy. The latter requires a deeper response than a quick “fine”.
This slight modification has given me the chance to become aware of frustrations, barriers, and likes or dislikes related to the tasks performed by the team. Hence, it has given me the opportunity to help the staff manage the experience and learn from it real time instead of waiting for someone to blow up in frustration. This concept is a variation of Maxwell’s “walk slowly through the crowd”.
Here are some of my probing questions:
- How do you feel about it?
- Identifies the emotions involved.
- What makes you feel that way?
- Looks for cause and problem.
- Sometimes the cause may not even be related to the task they are working on.
- How can it be done better?
- Forces them to be creative about solving the issue.
- How can you help the situation?
- Creates a sense of participation and control.
- What are you going to do about it?
- Sets expectations for action and consequences.
My goal with these questions is to identify the pain points and have them propose solutions to the problem. This allows the person to move from complaining to problem solving; and ultimately reflect on their likes and dislikes of certain situations.
While this tactic may not be as straight forward with everyone, I have found it helps defuse the emotional stress and channels that energy in a productive way. The result is a win/win situation. Not only do I acknowledge the person’s feelings but I also manage to get them engaged in learning from the experience and coming up with possible solutions.
As a leader, this is how a play my part in the Law of Pain. I serve my team by helping them manage their bad experiences.
What other techniques have you used to deal with bad experiences?