Leaders Make a Positive Difference without Knowing the Long-Term Results

June 9, 2018

A long time ago, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my right shoulder. Years of athletic wear and tear slowly eroded the cartilage to a point where my joint became bone on bone. Ouch! I lost range of motion and couldn’t throw a ball with my right arm.

Fast forward to last year. My shoulder began freezing up regularly and my arthritic pain was unbearable. I could definitely tell when the weather was about to change by a deep ache stretching from my shoulder to my fingertips. I finally decided to ask my doctor about what I should do. He recommended physical therapy. He told me that my workplace had an on-site PT and he’d refer me. I looked at him with doubt that PT could help but what the heck, I’d give it a try.

That’s when I connected with Vanessa. I began a year-long journey with her to strengthen my shoulder. Every appointment, she had a well thought out plan about how to help me get better. Through a series of strengthening exercises, my shoulder began to stabilize and I regained limited use. Vanessa had a great ability to ask thoughtful questions, genuinely listen, and encourage my progress. Her enthusiasm and sense of humor were contagious.

Every once and a while, she’d suggest that I see an orthopedic surgeon for an evaluation. Eventually, I took her suggestion and went to see the doctor. After reviewing my x-rays and performing his test, the surgeon looked at me and said “it’s not a matter of if you need surgery but when. You need a full shoulder replacement. If you elect to have the operation, your range of motion and strength will return. And best of all, your arthritis will disappear”.

I made the difficult decision to have surgery, spend six weeks in a sling and with the understanding it’d take up to 18 months to regain full range of motion. A couple of weeks after my operation, it was time to return working with Vanessa to rehabilitate and re-educate my right shoulder. We made tremendous progress and I’m happy to say I’m feeling awesome.

My shoulder journey and successful healing were due in great part to Vanessa’s help. I’m not alone. She’s helped hundreds of others where I work. One day, I asked her about the secret to her success.

“Vanessa, why do you think you’re so successful as a Physical Therapist?”, I asked.

“I think technically, I’m just average. I know and do all of the things a typical PT does,” she replied.

She paused and said, “I think it’s not what I do but how I do it. I make every effort to connect with my patients on a personal level and I believe that’s the key.”

Vanessa continued, “Honestly, I’m not sure how successful I am. I’m not sure I make a difference.”

“Really?”, I asked. “Why do you say that?”

She said, “My job can be transactional. People come to me needing to get better. I work with them and once they improve our relationship ends and I never see them again.”

I could tell what she just said discouraged her. I said, “Vanessa, every time I mention to someone at the office that I’m working with you, inevitably someone’s face lights up and he or she tells me about how great you are, how much you helped them and how thankful they are for you.”

I continued, “You may or may not see it but you are making a difference in peoples’ lives.”

Vanessa smiled and said, “Thank you. You’re right. I rarely hear or see the long-term results of my work. Hearing what you said encourages me and renews my confidence in what I do.”

Vanessa’s not only a great PT but also a wonderful role model. Not knowing the long-term results of her work, she still pours herself into it, connecting with her patients and knowing what she does makes a difference.

How about you? As a leader, do you pour yourself into others knowing that you may not see the long-term results? Do you help develop people in their journey knowing that you may see them reach their potential?

Leaders, I encourage you to invest in others not knowing the specific results. If you do, you’ll make a positive impact just like Vanessa does.

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