A few months ago, I walked into my house after work and my wife met me at the door. She handed me a glass jar she had been struggling with and asked me to open it so she could continue preparing our dinner.
Eager to show off my strength as the man of the house, I grabbed the jar, but as I started to twist the lid, I felt an intense pain. It started in my hand, ran up my arm, through my shoulder, and straight into my neck. This was no ordinary pain, and it had been nagging at me for a while. My wife had been urging me to see a doctor, but we all hate going to the doctor!
Diagnosis and Treatment I finally gave in, and the next thing I knew, I was in my doctor’s office looking at MRIs and X-Rays and learning about all the problems with a nerve in my neck. Turns out this could be a serious condition without treatment.
The doctor told me about a few options that involved scary-long needles or major surgery which could put me out of commission for a while. Determined to find a less invasive route and avoid the concerned stares of my wife, I started some physical therapy called “traction.” Basically, they lay you out on a table, put your head in a vice clamp trying to pull you apart like a medieval torture device, and relieve the pressure on the nerve.
Do it Yourselfer? After a few weeks of this physical therapy, it was really working! But I’m a busy guy; I’ve got no time for all those appointments. So I took a close look at their traction device, and the engineer in me went to work. I ditched the appointments and fabricated my own traction device. That’s right, all it took was talking my wife into sewing a couple of loops in an old bath towel, threading a bungee cord through the loops, and adding a hook on the end. Before, I knew it, I was hanging myself in the basement twice a day to fix my neck. I knew that engineering degree would come in handy.
It was all working great until I had to travel for an overnight business trip. I started to brainstorm how I could get the traction I needed while being so far away from the Doug Sterbenz Traction Treatment Clinic! And after a few modifications, I had my very own travel size, TSA approved traction device. Sneaking it into my carry-on bag to avoid concerning my wife, I hit the road.
Travel Size Treatment By the time I arrived at the Denver airport, I was in a lot of pain. I needed some traction, but I quickly discovered that there are not a lot of private places in a public airport to go hang yourself. Eventually, I found an empty men’s room. I snuck in, hooked my device over the stall door, and got started with my treatment to relieve the pressure on my spine. Ahhh, what a relief!
After a couple of minutes passed, I heard the door open. I couldn’t see who came in, but I heard footsteps–a lot of them. The first couple of people must have ignored me, but then a couple of Good Samaritans rushed over to me. Assuming the worst, they started pulling me up by my arms, telling me that whatever I was going through was not that bad, and that this was not how I should deal with my problem!
I immediately responded that it is that bad! I told them, “I am in a lot of pain and this is exactly how I’m going to deal with it. This is the only choice I have.”
Finally, after quite an embarrassing scuffle, the men wrestled me to my feet. I told them that I tried seeing a doctor about my pain, but that therapy was taking too much time. I tried to explain that my wife really loves me so she made this device for me to end my pain. They just stared at me looking more and more concerned the longer I talked. I was so embarrassed that I just gave up.
Hanging Yourself? Sometimes we leaders have to “hang ourselves out there” for the greater good. Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and do something unpleasant, because we know it will make someone or something better. Leaders hang themselves out there and do uncomfortable things for the greater good of the organization.
Do you have something that might be a little uncomfortable but needs attention? What are you waiting for?
And doing what needs to be done—despite being a little uncomfortable—is not the only way leaders improve themselves and their organizations. Sometimes we grow the most when we are uncomfortable. When was the last time that you put yourself in an uncomfortable position to grow? When was the last time you really hung yourself out there? When was the last time you stepped up to a task that you weren’t sure you could do?
Leaders hang themselves out there by doing what is uncomfortable for the greater good of the organization.
At the End of the Day Late that evening, I finally arrived home and walked into the door, my wife looked at me and asked, “How was your trip?”
“Just fine!” I said with a chuckle reflecting on the day.
Thank you for hanging yourself out there and doing what is uncomfortable. That’s leadership!
Doug can be reached at Doug@PresentToWinLeaders.com www.PresentToWinLeaders.com