By Tim Hayes
The evening prior to leading a day-long intense training and coaching program with about 60 managers of a global manufacturing company, a participant joined our table at dinner and struck up a conversation.
This person was very much looking forward to hearing new thoughts and approaches to developing material to be presented to groups, as well as how to improve one’s presentation skills. It quickly became clear that the comments made over dinner were credible, honest, and genuine. This manager truly felt eager to learn and get better at this critical leadership skill, and it gave me and my team even more confidence about the ideas we would share the next day.
In fact, this person had heard the basics of my approach from associates at the headquarters office, and was in the process of reworking a presentation to follow those core principles. I said that sounded great, and to keep at it, knowing that the result would make for a clearer message and as a result, an easier delivery.
So my team and I plunged in the following morning, introducing proven concepts and systems, research results, statistical facts, and personal observations – all geared toward helping these key managers feel more capable and prepared to push vital information out to their staffs when they got back home.
The afternoon featured a series of breakout sessions, including one where each participant would make a brief presentation, then accept feedback from peers and the facilitator. This would be the most intense of the breakouts, but also the one where the most valuable learning would occur.
Eventually, my new friend from dinner the night before stood up, did a brief presentation and sat down again. The first question in this training asks the presenter how he or she would evaluate the performance. This person – like most people – became the most vocal self-critic.
While there always are opportunities to improve, likewise there always are areas of strength. This person’s presentation was no different, and the group feedback said the same. I got the impression, though, that this participant remained unconvinced about the positive parts of the presentation given.
When the full day had been completed, the entire group of participants gathered again in the large meeting room for final comments and evaluations. Comments included things like, “This really opened my eyes,” “I will put these ideas to work immediately,” and “I was really dreading this, but it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be.”
Then my friend from dinner stood up and said, “I disagree – this was a LOT more painful than I anticipated.”
None of the comments surprised me, and in fact, that person’s observation probably carried more truth than any other. And it confirmed that we had done the job we had been hired to do.
Because any true, lasting, meaningful, sustainable growth comes from enduring some pain.
Think of it. Even in nature, nothing grows without some suffering. A seed planted in the ground has to crack open, then a shoot needs to fight its way up through the soil, searching for water and sunlight before the plant can begin to blossom.
No one rides a bicycle the first time he or she climbs on. You wobble around, get your bearings, probably crash a time or two and rack up some skinned knees, before you can hop on and pedal away with confidence.
Your fingers can expect to form blisters when learning to play the guitar, violin, or cello. Innumerable missed notes, instances of improper bow technique, and episodes of self-defeating frustration will be visited upon you before you can play with skill and for pure enjoyment.
We abhor the delays and inconvenience of road construction, but when a safer, wider, smoother highway results, the hassles it took to get there somehow fade from memory.
And, of course, the ultimate example – the incredible pain of labor, that yields the greatest joy of all, a newborn infant.
They say the journey contains the thrills. That may have some truth to it, but I contend that any meaningful journey first contains the pain necessary to reach the destination. And that achieving your goal becomes all the more thrilling and sweet because of that purifying pain.
I met a very nice person at an offsite event who, I believe, would agree. Keep working at making the change, my friend. The pain doesn’t last long. It’s only temporary. And it’s well worth the effort in the end.
Copyright 2019 Timothy P. Hayes
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