As a part of my exercise routine I climb an extremely steep hill (used for skiing during the winter months). The other day, I did it while pulling a heavy cart behind me. Not even a third of the way up the hill I started to feel a burn in my thighs, and pain in my right knee. I wanted to drop the cart, and I wanted to stop because my breath was staggered, and I swear my heart was about to jump out of my chest. But I kept telling myself not to quit, and to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, I’ll make it up the hill. After what seemed like forever, I did make it up the hill. I was no longer on an incline, and my thighs had stopped burning, though I hardly recognized it because I was still breathing hard. I could still feel my heart beating at a massively fast pace. So again, I had to tell myself, just keep walking. Your heart will eventually stop racing. Within the next hundred feet or so, I found myself breathing normally once again. And at that moment, I heard, “the pain only lasts for a little while, but the benefits it bring will be forever.” That was good to hear because at that moment, I could not think of one good reason why I should keep torturing myself that way.
Yesterday, I was back at it. Climbing that nemesis of a hill once more. However, I noticed something different when I finally made it to the top. I wasn’t breathing quite as hard, and my recovery time didn’t take quite as long. What was the difference? After a few times of climbing that hill I finally took some advice from a trainer and got my breathing under control. I’ve learned to breathe in through my nose and exhale through my mouth. The cadence of my breathing was more in sync with my steps. In short, I'm learning how to perform better when climbing the hill. And if I keep it up, I’ll have to search for a more challenging hill to climb one day soon. If that’s even possible.
Climbing this hill makes me think about how organizations often go through their own pain, as they change in an effort to be more productive, and competitive. But don’t often recognize how they can benefit from the pain. The pain tells us two things, 1) You’re doing something now that you weren’t doing before, and 2) The amount of pain you feel is subject to your technique. Did you implement a new ERP or LMS system, and ten months later employees still aren’t using it? Are you in the middle of streamlining some of your processes, and employees are complaining that this new process is making them work harder than before? To you I say, keep climbing! Recognize the pain and then take the time to figure out what different technique can be used to perform better through your next bout of pain. Oh yeah, there will be pain again, because that’s what happens when you want to grow. The key is to figure out how to feel the pain less. And how to shorten the recovery time.
In my case, I had to change my breathing. Get it under control. But you will need to first ask yourself some questions, which will inform you of the new technique to be applied. Who are the biggest agitators of the change effort? Where is the resistance coming from? What parts of the change didn’t work (and what did)? Who should be included in the change effort the next time, and what role should they play?
Answers to these questions = new technique = better performance
So take a look at your last performance, ask the questions, and then apply the new technique. Do this over and over until you can breathe through the climb of change normally. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. And you’ll soon be looking for more hills to climb as well.
Whatever you do, don't stop. Just keep climbing!