This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png The last line of this sign is good advice for a hotel fitness center, which may have guests who do not exercise on a regular basis. If they are unfamiliar with how their body will react to the stress of physical exertion, they may push too far, causing injury or death. Yet as any fitness enthusiast will attest, it’s in the moments of discomfort that the greatest gains are attained. Discomfort sets in long before the experienced enthusiast reaches a state of over-exertion.

That’s also true in our work, and in our relationships at work. Moving both work and relationships forward requires we endure moments of discomfort. If we are going to blaze new trails with our work, and take the people we care about with us, there is going to be discomfort. It may come from a challenging conversation, or disappointing failure. Discomfort may come from a lack of certainty and the awareness of risks.

The key to managing discomfort is awareness. An experienced gym athlete will be aware of their breathing, heart rate, and hydration. They will have a sense of when it is safe to push on and when it is necessary to hold back, or stop. Pushing through discomfort is a process of continual observation, reflection, and assessment.

This is certainly true regarding lean transformations at the project and company levels. These transformations require difficult conversations and challenging re-evaluations regarding how we show up for our work teams. The changes are uncomfortable. Rather than discontinuing, at first sign of discomfort, pause to observe, reflect, and assess. Much of the time it will be a signal that you can continue confident the discomfort is leading you and your team toward higher standards of performance.