I will admit that I am a fair-weather flip-flop type of walker. My toes are the happiest when they can wave at the sky and the ground with each step I take. Yet, the other day, each step was uncomfortable. I did the regular shaking of the foot, thinking I had sent the causation of my pain away. Stepping forward, it was clear after several steps that I had not been successful.
I repeated my actions with shaking and taking the sandal off to no avail. Finally, after several attempts, I decided to try a new tactic. Finding a tree to lean into, I balanced myself to look for the source of my discomfort. There it was, a tiny pebble lodged between my toes, not easy to see but certainly felt with each step.
Muhammad Ali said, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.” Some individuals put it differently, by saying “It is the little things that wear you down.” I remember a time when as a leader, I was depleted. Yet, I was unable to acknowledge the state that I was in. I saw myself as the mighty warrior leader trudging forward, ignoring the pebble(s) in my shoe. Ignoring what was wearing me down to being ineffective. My mentor saw what I could not see and took me out for coffee, with love and compassion, saying, “One cannot be gentle with others until one is gentle with oneself.”
As I work with leaders across the nation, I have met many who are depleted, scarred and unable to recognize the pebbles that they are walking upon each day. They are seen as mighty warriors fighting the battle against harm and hurt, caring for others. As I look into their eyes, I hear the echoes of my mentor, “One cannot be gentle with others until one is gentle with oneself.” They are weary, trudging forward in their work.
It is hard to acknowledge when the mighty warrior is depleted. It is hard to recognize the pebbles that are present within one’s shoe. It is hard to know when to lean into support to dislodge the pebble. It is hard to allow others to help so that the pebble becomes sand and then felt no more.
I struggled with my pebbles and couldn’t find a way to dislodge them. My wise mentor encouraged me to make a pebble list. Having the courage to acknowledge what was wearing me down, or my pebble, opened the door to possibilities of removal.
My pebble list looked something this:
|Pebbles||Who Can Help Me||Steps To Make the Pebble Become Sand||Pebble- and Sand- Free Milestones|
|Staffing||Employees: Help in developing Residency Program for CNAs||-Develop Residency Program for CNA’s|
-Meet with training centers to market the Residency Program
|Positions filled and pipeline established for new hires|
|Engagement||Ask employees what our shared purpose is||Use shared purpose to develop role clarity and contributions for huddles||Engagement scores increase to 85%|
My mentor then encouraged me to be vulnerable and share my pebbles with my team, and listen to theirs. In our vulnerability, new creative sparks emerged. The pebbles became smaller, and we as a collective group worked stronger, better together.
Dr. Brené Brown stated, “I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” I would add anyone who has the willingness to be truth-telling and truth listening.
Be courageous, remove the pebble(s)!
Martie L. Moore, MAOM, RN, CPHQ, has been an executive healthcare leader for more than 20 years. She has served on advisory boards for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and the American Nurses Association, and she currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing and Sigma. She was honored by Saint Martin’s University with an honorary doctorate degree for her service and accomplishments in advancing healthcare.