The Space Between Pain and Problem-solving

Published: February 19, 2019

Growth happens for many reasons. The demand for your products and services exceeds your capacity. Your business plan calls for expanding to new markets. An acquisition doubled your headcount overnight. Whichever the cause, the employee engagement surveys identify the same pain point: constant change. Constant change energizes some teammates and exhausts others. The team quietly divides into subgroups separating those who embrace the speedy transformation from those who need time to process the impact. How do we bring these sides together?

Coping skills get activated once you know what you are managing. Struggle always begins with an expression of pain followed by problem-solving. It’s the space between pain and problem-solving that gets most of us stuck. Just knowing things will eventually get resolved is not enough to soothe anxiety. It takes some movement in the right direction.

The secret sauce for managing constant change is communication. Consider the ways that active collaboration moves a team forward:

Listen to me: Provide simple validation that my membership on the team has value.

Allay my concerns: Show me the path from my brain’s fear center to its problem-solving hub.

Inform me: Tell me something I don’t know and bring me up to speed on the bigger picture.

Enlighten me: Shine a light on something positive and give me a glimpse of the future.

Solicit my perspective: Harness the strength of diversity by seeing the world through my lens.

Invite my participation: Clarify my role on the team.

Often the simplest solution is right under our noses: communication. Give equal weight to the giving and taking aspects of the exchange. Listen for understanding. Take time to check for misinterpretation. Filter out your bias. Team communication fills the space between anguish and anticipation with palpable movement from tension to resolution. Have a conversation.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.