I have been recovering from a surgery to my shoulder this summer. Once the initial 6 week recovery was over, I was taken aback by how weak that whole group of muscles had become. I was sent to physical therapy where I learned even small exercises (lifting nothing more than the weight of my arm) could cause pain all afternoon. The Doc. gave me a series of exercises to do twice a day every day, and then return in a week. Most of these tasks were actually just controlled stretching that was designed to increase my range of motion back to what it had once been.
I am happy to say I graduated at the top of my class. After just three or so weeks of therapy, he said I had regained all my range of motion (which he had doubted prior to surgery) and was now “free” to concentrate on strength building. I have learned that torn, atrophied, and reattached muscles are re-energized at great cost. As I write this, I know how much I still have to do to return to normal, but I am also grateful for how much recovery I have already experienced.
So, how did I regain my range of motion so quickly, and what does all this have to do with leadership?
I applied a principle of leadership to my home therapy sessions. “I chose to reach higher.”
When I couldn’t reach above my shoulder, I rigged a pulley system to slowly stretch my arm up a little at a time. I never let it hurt, but I never let my inability to actively raise my arm stop me from reaching high. If I couldn’t lift my arm up actively, I made sure I could passively. Then with my joints and muscles retrained to allow for full movement, I was truly free to regain my strength in all those healing muscles.
We leaders need to take some time and evaluate our leadership, our organizations, and our people. Where have we allowed ourselves to atrophy as we stopped reaching up? What areas have we possibly gotten into such a rut that it seems like we can’t do things any other way?
Take a look at your leadership. Is there one area you could use some limbering up? Where are you stiff, and operating more out of habit than passion? Let me challenge you to reach up! Find a new way of doing what you do, and set new goals. It worked for me. The truth is, that arm is lot’s more flexible now than it used to be, and it is getting even looser, and stronger all the time. I remind myself every once in a while to apply the “reach up” principle to my leadership as well. And it feels great!