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Edition 289 – Muscle Memory

It was 10 weeks since I’d injured my back. It was two weeks since there’d been any pain. The road to recovery was well and truly underway. I was back, baby!

One morning, I missed the tailored exercise regime put together by my physiotherapist. I put it to down to a poor night’s sleep and feeling generally lethargic throughout the day. The next morning, well it’s Sunday, a day of rest according to the big book. So I rested. What’s two days?

Two days quickly became six. On the afternoon of the sixth day, I had an appointment with my physiotherapist. An hour or so beforehand, I thought to myself “I can feel a drop-off in back strength over the past few days”. Not dramatic, but noticeable if I gave it thought.

It the outset of my appointment, I confessed my sins, which he knew about anyway thanks to the benefit of the app on my phone that I religiously maintain each day I complete my exercises…..and don’t when I don’t. Onto my stomach I went on those ridiculously narrow treatment tables and straight away he identifies a tightness in the area where 10 weeks previously, I felt my world was heading for a lifetime of chronic pain. I didn’t feel it until the dry needle entered the spot – then I felt it. It wasn’t pain, but tightness. Unbelievably, through the dry needle, I could feel the muscle knotting again. It was a bizarre sensation.

Since joining up with this physiotherapist, I’d made significant inroads to restoring my back health. His tailored regime, regular assessments and strong recommendation to undertake the exercises daily had all brought me to the point where my functionality was greatly restored and the pain had departed.

The first day back into my exercises, I felt discomfort like I’d not felt for weeks. Some exercises were tougher than previously. Others created a tightness I’d not felt for weeks. One or two demonstrated pain – not dramatically so, but enough to acknowledge that six days out had put me back.

The same goes when we’re working with our people in our businesses. We lament a drop off in performance when the numbers start to show it. We become frustrated when procedures that we’ve developed aren’t followed. We ask questions as to why the person we promoted with great fanfare six months previously, and promised them at the time that we’d guide them in the process, is now struggling in their role.

People need consistency. Left to our own devices, most of us will drop away from the new routine that we’ve entered and fall back into whatever it was we did in the past, whether or not that worked.

Most of all, as leaders in our businesses, we need to be consistent in what we’re doing inside our business. To that end:

  1. Be consistent in our formal training. Whether it’s weekly, monthly or quarterly, lock it in, develop a regime and don’t shift the date.
  2. Be consistent when mentoring our people. If you’ve promised to devote time each week to someone in your organisation, lock that time away as an appointment in your diary.
  3. Be consistent with our own learning and development. Take time out on a regular basis to be guided yourself in business, read widely or dedicate time to plan the future.
  4. Be consistent in following our processes that we insist are important to the efficient running of our business. If we deviate, then why question our team when they deviate, given the example we’re setting.

By being consistent, we develop a certain muscle memory about how things are done in business. By being inconsistent, aren’t we heading back into a world of pain?

This Week’s Tip

“It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit
and an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic” –