Craig Groeschel - Leading Through Pain
Hey, welcome to our YouTube Leadership community. I often tell our team, if you aren't hurting, you probably aren't leading. Because there's no such thing as leadership progress without leadership pain. That's why in this month's episode, we're gonna talk about leading through pain. Now, as a leader, there's two things I know about you. The first thing is this, number one, as a leader, you carry a weight that most people don't understand. The second thing is you hurt more than most people will ever know. As a leader, you carry a weight that most people don't understand and you hurt more than most people will ever know. Now, you may not be hurting a lot today, but if you've led anything for any length of time, you've hurt in the past, and you'll probably hurt in the future.
Welcome to the "Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast" where we're here to encourage you. But the big truth is this. I hope you write this down. That there's almost no such thing as leadership progress without leadership pain. Let me say it again. There's almost no such thing as leadership progress without leadership pain. Because we know that good leadership is often painful and is always complicated. Examples: If your organization is struggling to turn a profit, that is painful. If you're trying to correct a toxic culture, that's painful. If you're managing supply chain issues, which most of us are right now, that's incredibly painful and challenging. If your church is emptier than it used to be, which is the story for so many churches today, that's painful and difficult.
If you're dealing with a troubled team member, that's painful and challenging. But when things are good, it can still be challenging. Maybe your organization is exploding and you've doubled in size. That's good news. But you may be way behind the curve on hiring. That's painful. Maybe you can't fulfill all of your orders. These are all good problems, but they're also hard to deal with and they can be painful. Why is this true? Because there's almost no such thing as leadership progress without leadership pain. Now, I was thinking about just pain and leadership, and I decided it's really impossible to give you an exhaustive list of all the different types of pain. I've been doing this for a long time and I'm always shocked. Oh, there's another type I didn't think of before. But what I tried to do was I tried to break it down into three main categories to think about the different types of pain that you will endure in your leadership.
The first category is what I call personal pain. And you all know this if you've led for any amount of time. Someone that you love and trusted betrayed you in your leadership, or maybe you're facing unfair criticism, that's personal pain, or someone let you down, or you had to let a friend go, someone that you loved, you had to help them move on. And that personal pain is incredibly difficult and we all deal with it.
A second category is I would just call your fault pain. Meaning it's your fault. You didn't deal with the problem. You procrastinated. You made a wrong decision. You did something dumb. You lacked integrity. You are too hard on somebody. You lost your cool. Whatever it is, it's actually your fault. There's personal pain. There's pain that's your fault.
And then a third category is what I would call external forces or external pain. This would be an unexpected turn in the economy, or this would be when you start getting beat by a new competitor that wasn't there before. Now, they're better than you are. It might be a senseless lawsuit. You didn't really do anything wrong, but now you're tied up in something really complicated. It may not even be work-related. It could be that you've got family problems. Maybe in your marriage or with a child or you're facing a health issue or someone that you love. And even those external problems end up complicating what you do in your leadership at work, all sorts of different types of leadership pain. Now, unfortunately, the odds are really, really high that for most of you, this is a more painful season in leadership. Because if you lead in any type of leadership capacity with all that's going on in the world, you're probably more exhausted, more frustrated, maybe more hated, and you've got more challenges than normal. And so that's why in this episode, we're gonna talk very specifically and very directly about leading through pain.
Now, a little backstory on this episode. I actually got the idea for this episode about four months after I had a hernia surgery. And I was sitting there icing my injury after a very painful physical therapy and it dawned on me that the parallels from healing from physical pain are incredibly similar to the healing from leadership pain. And so right there, while I was putting ice on my injury, I wrote down four big thoughts and just got it in 30 seconds or so. And that's what I wanna share with you today. I'll tell you a little bit just for fun about my injury and how I ended up getting surgery. And I'll tell you, honestly, that I did almost everything wrong that you could possibly do wrong after I was injured. You might wonder, okay, how did you get hurt? Well, I was actually doing jujitsu and just to give you context, I'm 53, almost 54 years of age.
And one of my training partners is a beast. His name is Andrew. And to give you context, I weigh about 184. He weighs 225. I'm 53. He's 25 years of age. He wrestled for four years at an NCAA college at Oklahoma University. I played college tennis. He was a college wrestler. He's 225, I'm 184. And he's been doing jujitsu a lot longer than I have. He got second at world's. And so essentially, to summarize, he basically sat on me and wrapped me up and I tried really, really hard to escape and I hurt myself really badly. I made five big mistakes I wanna share with you. The first thing is I didn't take my injury seriously. In other words, I was hurt and I showed back up the next day like a dummy and said, "Let's go again". And I kept trying to train even though I was injured.
The second mistake I made is I tried to self-diagnose myself. I thought, and I was really convinced, I just pulled my groin muscle. I've just got a pulled groin and it's gonna heal even though I'm still working on it. Third big mistake is after two months of being stupid, after two months, I finally visited a doctor and the doctor said, "You need surgery". And two days later, I got surgery. The fourth mistake is the doctor told me, "Don't lift more than 10 pounds for six weeks. Whatever you do, don't lift 10 pounds". And honestly, I thought to myself, that's for normal people. I'm a little stronger than the normal person. And so if most people can't lift 10 pounds, I'm probably safe at 50, 60, 70, 80 pounds, whatever. And I just didn't take his advice seriously. And I re-injured myself significantly because I'm dumb as a rock. Finally, I went in for reevaluation after weeks and weeks and weeks, and he said, "You need physical therapy". And so that's what I'm doing now is I'm getting worked on it.
So all that to say, how do we heal? How do we deal from a leadership hurts? And the answer will be very similar to the same way that we heal from a physical hurt. And I wanna give you four thoughts that I really believe can help your leadership and help you lead through the pain. The first thing, number one is this, what do you do? Number one is you have to acknowledge the problem exists. If you're injured, you have to say, I'm injured. You have to pay attention to it. If you've got a problem in your organization, you have to. And honestly, leaders often don't do this. Because as leaders, many of us, we like to believe the best. And we're actually really good at self-deception. We often tell ourselves like things were fine and we often ignore problems. And sometimes, we just wait and hope things are gonna get better, but they rarely get better by themselves. I tell our team this all the time, really important. I tell our team, "Many leaders could solve more problems if they weren't so busy denying them".
Let me say that again. So many leaders, and this could be you. You can solve more problems if you weren't so busy denying them. So what do you do in leadership? Essentially, you solve problems. And I wanna tell you, at all times you should have a problem or a few problems that you're solving. What are you? One of your titles is you're the CPS. You're the chief problem-solver. In fact, the value you bring is a reflection of the problems that you solve. The value you bring is a reflection of the problems you solve. In fact, we talked in detail about being the chief problem-solver in two episodes on the "Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast". We'll link to this in the notes but it's episode 66 and 68. You solve problems.
Now, what kind of problems do you have right now? You got to start by acknowledging the problems. You may have some personal leadership problems. Maybe someone that you trusted betrayed you, and you're having a hard time trusting. Or maybe you empowered somebody and they screwed it up. And now you're back into control-freak mode or whatever it is. It may be an organizational problem that you're trying to drive sales up in a difficult time. Or you're trying to create generosity in a nonprofit. Or you're trying to fill a leadership pipeline that's gone dry. Or you're trying to scale up your organization. Forgive me for stating the obvious. But this is so important. You must acknowledge you have a problem to solve the problem. You have to start there. And I wanna encourage you to name it. Don't just say we've got some problem in this department. Be very, very clear. We have an attitude problem with this person. We have a toxic culture in this department. We have a delivery problem. We have a customer service problem.
Be very, very clear and state the specific outcome that you want as clear as possible, because you cannot defeat what you do not define. You wanna acknowledge that the problem exists. Give it a name. Write it on a wall. Put it on a piece of paper. Talk about it. Be very, very, very, very clear this is our problem that we want to solve. Number one, you acknowledge the problem exists. I've got an injury and I need to heal this injury. The second thing you wanna do is you wanna diagnose the problem. This is so important. You wanna diagnose the problem. Because if we don't accurately diagnose the problem, we may only treat the symptom. In other words, what feels like a pulled groin might be a hernia.
And here's what happens. As a leader, a lot of times you're drawn to just looking at the symptom and treating the symptom. But I wanna encourage you to train yourself to look beyond the symptom. I look for what someone have called the problem beneath the problem or the thing beneath the thing. For example, your sales team might be behind year to date sales 12% from the previous years. And so you're the sales manager and you come in and say, "Make more sales calls". That might work. Or you might be treating the symptom, not the problem. Maybe the problem isn't that your sales team isn't working hard. Maybe you have a product problem. In other words, your product isn't as good today and you're being passed by your competition. Or maybe over half your sales teams, they're rookies and they haven't been trained yet. They're not prepared. Or maybe they have been trained, but they don't have access to good leads. They're making lots of calls, but they're calling the wrong people. You wanna accurately diagnose the problem.
Or another example would be this. Let's say that several of your team members have bad attitudes. You've got a department where people just really come in and they're critical of everything. They're not getting things done. And so you come in and you say, "Change your attitude or we're gonna change who works here". Okay, that may be a plan. But if you diagnose the problem accurately and look beneath the problem, what you might find is you have a different problem. Maybe they have a bad attitude because they're frustrated because they don't have clear expectations. They don't really know what they're supposed to be doing. Or maybe they have a bad attitude because they don't have what they need to do their job well. They're missing some resources that they should have. Or maybe they've got a very controlling supervisor. And it's almost impossible to have a good attitude when you're working for someone that is so controlling and so demanding and doesn't care about the team.
Now, let me just get in your face for a moment. And here's what's tough to hear. If you have organizational pain, maybe your people feel overworked or there's some communication gaps, or maybe some moral problems, sometimes we, as the leader, we're the source of the problem. If I could say it more directly, sometimes you are the problem. Sometimes I'm the problem. In fact, recently I was holding on to something that we'd done a certain way for like 15 years. And my team came to me and said, "Hey, the rule's changed and they're not really relating to the way you used to do it". And I was like, "No, this is the way we do it. This is the way we do it". And what I realized is that my comfort in doing things the way we had done was creating a log jam and our organization wasn't able to move forward. And I tell you that to tell you this, that if you can't point to a recent example of you being a problem, your team is probably still enduring some unnecessary pain.
Let me say it again. If you can't point to a recent example of you being the problem, your team is probably still enduring some unnecessary pain. Because in any growing and evolving organization, you, as a leader, you're gonna hit ceilings. We all do this. And when you don't change or when you don't grow, you become the problem. For example, you might have a troubled team member and they're causing problems and being rebellious or not following through or whatever and everybody knows it. If you don't address that troubled team member, you have no idea how much credibility you lose with the whole organization, because everybody knows they're a problem. Eventually though, if you don't address that problem team member, the problem team member isn't the problem. If you don't address the problem, you are the problem. What do we need to do? Diagnose the problem.
And you may say, "But what if I have a hard time diagnosing the problem? We've got a challenge, but I don't know what the real problem is". I'd say it's often wise to get outside help. Why do you want to get an outside perspective? And the reason is because of your proximity to the problem, you often lose objectivity. You might've started the department and so you're emotionally attached to the department. Or you might like the person who is a problem and so you're emotionally attached to it. And anytime you go outside, you get an elevated view and you get objectivity. For example, I had to go to the doctor to diagnose my injury. It's not a pulled groin. It's a hernia. And you might bring in a consultant, or honestly, we don't use consultants. I call my friends who are leaders and I'll say, "What do you think about what's going on"? I'll tell them about the problem. And because they're not emotionally connected and they have objectivity, they can often help me diagnose the problem. So what are you gonna do? We all have problems and you have to start by acknowledging the point of pain: what's the problem?
Number two, you wanna diagnose the problem. Number three, you wanna treat the problem. In my case, the physical pain, the treatment, was surgery. And let me tell you about my surgery. It was expensive. It was disruptive. It was painful. And there was a longer healing process than anticipated. Let me say it again. My surgery was expensive, disruptive, painful with a longer healing process than I anticipated. And this is not too dissimilar from so many leadership solutions. You've got a toxic team member, or you've got a program that needs overhauling or getting to shut down a product line, or you need to close a location, it may be expensive, disruptive, painful, and there's a longer healing process than anticipated. And that's the very reason you may be avoiding the problem.
So I would ask you, leader, is there some problem that you're denying exists? Are you avoiding a problem that you need to address? It might be, you need to have a difficult conversation with a team member or make a difficult decision or admit to a difficult prognosis, whatever it is. And let me just tell you this right now and listen carefully. This is so important. The difference between where you are and where you could be might be the pain that you're unwilling to endure. The difference between where you are in your leadership, where you are in your organization, where you are in your ministry, where you are in your business, the difference between where you are and where you could be might be the pain that you're unwilling to endure, because you almost never solve a problem by avoiding it. It will be expensive. It will be disruptive. It will be painful. And there'll be a longer healing process often, but the progress is worth the pain. What do you do? Admit to the problem, diagnose the problem, treat the problem, and then finally, rehabilitate toward healing, rehabilitate toward healing. In other words, sometimes surgery isn't enough and you need to rehabilitate to facilitate healing. And that's what I've been doing.
My friend, Doug, works me over in rehab and you guessed it. It's painful. Why is it painful? Because growth and comfort never coexist. So where are you? You've got some type of organizational pain and you might be working on rebuilding trust after you lost it, or you might be dealing with a team member that seems uncoachable, or you might be recovering after a financial setback. What are you doing? During this time, you're retraining your team toward health. You're helping them to establish healthy goals. You're helping them to integrate healthy accountability. You're helping them to communicate in healthy ways relationally. You're helping them create healthy systems. In the same way we retrain our body, we're retraining our team toward health. If you haven't read my latest book "Winning the War in your Mind," we talked about the neural pathways, that the way when we think a thought, it's easy to think that thought again.
Well, we're gonna do, when we're retraining a team toward health, is in the same way we create new neural pathways in our mind. We're doing is we're creating new organizational pathways. We're helping our team as we're healing. Say, here's how we operate now. Here's how we think now. Here's what we value now. And we're working toward healing. If I can slow it down, I'll tell you a kind of a transparent season in my leadership. And in the last 20 months or so I've had some leadership challenges, much like many of you. So many of them are obvious with all of the COVID tension. Leading a church with the racial tension and political division is obviously complicated. And then in the last year, our staff, we had two staff members die tragic deaths. And I woke up and realized that I've been going harder, harder, harder, harder, harder. And I was just on the edge of burnout. The problem is I'd been on the edge for a long time, but I didn't acknowledge the problem.
So what did I do? These four things. The first thing is I had to acknowledge the problem. And the problem wasn't just COVID complications. The problem is that for 31 years of leading, my goal has been more, a little more, a little more, a little more, a little more, a little more, a little more and more efficient, more work earlier, later, harder, faster, more and more and more and more and more and more, more. And I was the problem. Then I had to diagnose the problem. And so I worked with a performance psychologist and I would recommend all top leaders that you have a coach. And my coach helped me understand that I was doing too much. But it wasn't just doing too much. But there was an internal driver that was broken, that I was trying to meet some internal need with external performance that was driving me to an unhealthy rate of performance. Then he showed me I wasn't just tired because I was always like, I'm tired, I'm tired, I'm tired. And he said, "If you're tired, you could take a nap". But I wasn't just tired. I was depleted. And because I was depleted, I didn't just need rest, but I needed to be refilled.
I needed to do some activities that would refurbish and rejuvenate my spiritual life, my inner life toward healing. So then we decided to treat the problem. And a little bit of it was a longer break. A little bit of it was just like hard work, looking at the root issues of why it is I often do overwork. And the number four is to work toward rehab toward healing. And that's what I've been doing. And honestly, I've been doing well. And my team would tell you and Amy, my wife, would tell you that I've been changing my rhythms. And now I'm performing at a very high level again. And I'm doing it in a healthy way. Not out of the wrong motivation, not out of an internal sickness, but out of an eternal drive and in a way that really is making a difference.
So what I wanna do is I wanna bring it back to you. Here's three questions that I would love for you to answer. And you may answer these with your team. Number one, what pain points are you experiencing personally or organizationally? What pain points are you experiencing personally or organizationally? Number two, what is the root cause of the pain? We're not just treating the symptom but we're gonna get to the root. And number three, and this is where it's gonna take some work. And you may need a coach. You may need some help. You may need some transparency and some goals. You may need to get a counseling, whatever. What can you do now to resolve the issue?
Here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna acknowledge it, diagnose it, treat it and rehab toward healing. Because the difference between where you are and where you could be may be the pain that you're unwilling to endure. Why does this matter? Because there's almost no such thing as leadership progress without leadership pain. And I want to tell you, thank you for being a part of our leadership community. You have what it takes to do what you're called to do. Step into the pain. Do the hard work. The short term pain is worth the leadership gain and you can make a difference. Good news. We have some bonus episodes coming up and I would love to invite you to invite others to be a part of our community. And thank you for investing in your leadership today. Continue invest in your leadership today and every day, because we know that everyone wins when the leader gets better.