The first chapter in my new book and guide, Facing the Demands of Leadership, covers the skill of “connecting with pain.” In this chapter, I write about one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in leadership:
Logic is overrated.
It really is. I’m a pretty rational person by nature, but over the past few years I’ve learned that I can use my logic as a defense mechanism. When I’m tired and my wife brings up a stressful or complicated situation, I start to analyze.
“It’s not that bad, actually.”
“Why are you worried about that? Compared to other things we’ve got going on, it’s not the most critical problem.”
And just like that, I’ve missed something my wife was trying to express to me. I use logic to avoid the discomfort of pain.
Too often, I assume that the real issue is the content of what someone is saying, rather than a personal connection they need from me. I hear, “You’re five minutes late” instead of “I need your presence with me.” I hear, “You forgot to run this errand” instead of “I want you to consider my needs and schedule.” I mistakenly focus on content, rather than on connection.
But I’m learning this:
If something matters to someone I’m leading … then it matters. Period.
It matters, regardless of how trivial an issue it might seem to me. It matters because the issue is important to that person, and that person is important to me.
One day I was at a gym waiting for a friend, and an autistic child was obsessively counting how many banners were on the wall. I had no idea why he was doing that, and mostly was ignoring him. Then another kid walked by and teased, “What are you doing? Who cares how many banners are on the wall?!”
I felt for the child, and so I decided to try to engage him. I lowered my head to look at the banners with him. “There are a lot of them, huh?” I said.
He looked at me. “Fifty-eight,” he said.
And we launched into a conversation and friendship from there. What really mattered to him wasn’t the banners, but about the fact that someone paid attention to him and his interests. This child needed connection, and for a friend to see his world, even if only for ten minutes.
If it matters to someone – it matters, period.
I’m learning to connect with people and their pain as I see beyond mere logic to their deeper needs and realities. If you want to read more and learn to do this alongside a group of people, be sure to check out Facing the Demands of Leadership!