The Balance Challenge

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

A few months ago, I found the room spinning when I went to get up out of bed. It only lasted 15 seconds or so but after 4 days of it, I thought it best to see my physician. He diagnosed me within a few minutes as having “‘benign paroxysmal positional vertigo,” (it’s always good to see benign in a medical diagnosis.)

The treatment is pretty straightforward for this form of vertigo and involved seeing a vestibular physical therapist who manipulated my head to help rebalance the otoconia crystals that sometimes become dislodged and migrate into the inner ear tubes. After 3 treatments with Amy, my PT, I was about 90 % better.

To get to the last 10%, Amy, provided me with a series of balancing exercises designed to challenge my vestibular system to work a little harder. I discuss this idea in The Resilience Advantage in that challenging ourselves to do new tasks strengthen our systems against future stress and adversity.

I translated this exercise into some work with one of my clients a few weeks after I began my treatment. This client was sharing that she was having difficulty convincing senior leaders about the importance of a company sanctioned initiative around that she was spearheading. It seemed like they “didn’t have time,” “weren’t convinced she had the right plan”, or “just plain wanted the paint-by-number version.”

I pushed back at her that she needed to stop trying to “convince” them and instead needed to develop an “influencing” strategy that would win them over, perhaps one at a time. Maybe one of them had a key retirement coming up and didn’t have a replacement for that person. Maybe another had a below benchmark retention rate among mid-managers and needed to find a way to help them improve their productivity. Finding their biggest challenges was going to be her greatest leverage point, I told her.

She seemed put off, at first, by my challenge, and ended the conversation telling me that she would think about my feedback. Later in the day, she sent a text thanking me for “provoking and challenging her” and she was already seeing things that she could do differently.

We may demure from challenging our customers so as not to offend them but in truth, they need to be annoyed and spun out of their comfortable way of thinking so they can gain a new perspective. They’ll actually be strengthened by it, just as my vestibular system is getting stronger with my learning to balance myself on one foot, with my eyes closed and while standing on a foam cushion.

Your Challenge this Week: Look for an opportunity to respectfully challenge a colleague, friend or family member to shift their way of thinking about a problem in a new way. It may be uncomfortable at first but this test will help them be stronger for their next adversity.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2019


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