It was day six of owning my shiny new Peloton. Being a gadget loving middle aged lady on something of a health kick lately, I was loving the heck out of my 45th birthday gift to myself, which I’d saved and planned for over the previous few months. I’d ridden every day since the bike had been delivered, and in another week or so I was planning to start a challenging daily routine to kick up my cardiovascular system. So I wake up, energized, refreshed, ready to smash another personal record. And then when I reached over to turn off the alarm, my back and shoulder howled in pain.
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It was day 6 of owning my shiny new peloton. Being a gadget loving middle aged lady on something of a health kick lately, I was loving the heck out of my 45th birthday gift to myself, which I’d saved and planned for over the previous few months. I’d ridden every day since the bike had been delivered, and in another week or so I was planning to start a challenging daily routine to kick up my cardiovascular system. So I wake up, energized, refreshed, ready to smash another personal record. And then when I reached over to turn off the alarm, my back and shoulder howled in pain.
Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge! I’m Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild. My PhD in higher ed Leadership plus 17 years working in academic libraries from the front desk to the Dean’s office taught me a secret that I want to share with all of you. You don't have to be a perfect leader to build a better world. And your school or library? it definitely doesn't need to be perfect either.
So here's the deal. Educational and library leaders like you give me 5-10 minutes of your Monday morning. In return, I'll empower you to heal yourself and your school or library. No long interviews, no celebrities, no lectures, no nonsense. Just short stories and simple challenges you can implement this week. Each challenge is designed to coach you in the confidence, skill, and trust you need to let go of a little control. You and your team will begin growing humanely, managing effectively, and partnering collaboratively, and your school or library will build a more informed and educated world along the way.
Before we get started, I want to let you in on a little secret this week.On May 30th I’ll be releasing a free Kind Leadership Guild Guide—Mastering Challenging Conversations. This guide is gonna come in two versions. The free version of the guide is a set of annotated checklists that you can use to plan for, conduct, and move forward from a challenging leadership conversation. This guide will be released to all current and new email list subscribers starting on May 30,2022. But I’m also recording a bonus 5-part mini-course that will walk you through typical case studies of difficult conversations so you can practice ahead of time! When Mastering Challenging Conversations launches, that mini-course will be offered alongside the checklists as a $19 upgrade. But if you join the mailing list between now and May 30th, you’ll get the checklists and the course both for FREE. Just head on over to the link in the show notes.
I doubt this will come as a surprise to anyone who’s been listening since the first episode, but I am something of a control freak. More to the point, I’d invested in that bike because I am making 2022 a year where I focus on my physical wellness and getting my body ready to tackle the next 45 years. I was focused and determined. However, there was another important lesson I’d learned from many of my previous attempts at getting in shape, the majority of which ended in burnout or just exhaustion. I was going to need to pace myself and listen to my body to make this work. So, as I laid there in bed, how was I going to handle this, without the risk of my newest attempt at physical fitness ending as a $2000 clothes hanger? Whe insight that came to me wasn;t a new one for me, and it’s not always one I like to hear. But it’s an insight all leaders need to accept, whether your vision is guiding your school or library through a change initiative or leading yourself through a new fitness plan so you can be physically and mentally strong enough to guide your school or library through that initiative.
The only thing you can control in life--or need to control-- is your response.
I once saw a definition of "responsibility" that broke it up into its component words--i.e., the ability to respond. As a recovering control freak that little tidbit stuck with me. There is very little we can control in life, and if anything this is only more true for leaders. We don't choose what happens to our organizations, or in the wider world. We don't choose how other people react to the decisions we make, or the motives they ascribe to us. We don't choose budget cuts or surprise donations or awards or layoffs—and certainly not a sore shoulder from overdoing it on our new bike. However, we have and can always strengthen the ability to respond to those challenges in a thoughtful, productive manner. Like any ability you can build your innate talent (or lack of talent) with practice and intentional work toward a goal of responding "better" to leadership challenges.
So, how should I respond to my bum shoulder? Well, first off I took a pain reliever and scrapped my planned workout for that day. I otherwise felt ok, so I did a gentle 10 minute recovery ride simply to move around a bit, sitting upright so I wouldn’t twinge anything further. Throughout the day I paid attention to my posture, and realized I needed to work on my slouching, especially when knitting or working at a computer. I scheduled a massage for that weekend and otherwise took it easy, either doing more short low impact rides or upper body stretching—or taking the day off altogether. I looked around the peloton rider forums online and asked around for other ideas—several of my fellow short riders reported similar issues and suggested a handlebar extender that would keep me from having to stretch so far to reach them, which I ordered.
I also thought longer term. I realized that my original workout plan was probably a bit ambitious for someone who had once been a spin class lover, but who also hadn’t been on a spin bike for the better part of 5 years. I scaled back both intensity and volume, and added in a stretch session for my rest day. I also made a boundary for myself—if my shoulder wasn’t better in two weeks, I would call my GP and possibly see about an appointment with a physical therapist.
Fortunately, between the rest, massage, the improved posture, the handlebar extender and a few days of Tylenol, my shoulder issue was well on the road to recovery in about a week, and I started my new gentler workout routine. I’m recording this not quite a month after I pulled my shoulder, and I’m still watching out for little twinges and tingles so I can stop any relapse early. Because in retrospect that shoulder pain had been brewing for a few days before it became a crisis, but rather than responding to it, I tried to control it by ignoring it. And that wishful thinking led to an overuse injury and a week of unnecessary pain.
So, my fellow kind leaders, what are you trying to control right now at work or home that is really outside your control? And how can you respond to it instead?
Come on over to the facebook group and let us know in the episode thread. Don’t worry, it’s a private group, and we even have anonymous posting and commenting options if that makes you more comfortable. In the group, we’ll dig deeper into this topic this week, and answer any questions you may have as well.
Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week’s episode insightful, give us a like or review—or even better, share this challenge with a colleague! Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.