Movement: A culture of constant personal and corporate growth and improvement is enabled through effective change management, self-development and a leadership pipeline

The Pain Pill Doctor Approach To Change Leadership

Suppose I wake up one morning with a crick in my neck that won’t go away. I go to my family physician and he prescribes pain pills to alleviate my pain.

But, the next day I wake up with my crick worse than the day before so I go to my chiropractor who gives me an adjustment and assures me that my back alignment was the source of my problem.

But, the next morning my crick persists so I go to a masseuse who diagnoses I have a knotted neck muscle and provides a deep tissue massage.

Yet, the next morning I still have a crick in my neck so I go to a therapist who determines that my traumatic childhood is creating stress and is causing my stiff neck and I just need several months of counseling.

This “Pain Pill Doctor” approach to medicine is a metaphor for physicians who only have pain pills in their medical kit. Since pain pills are the only medication they have, it’s the only medication they can give patients, regardless of their symptoms.

The Pain Pill Doctor Leader Defined

In change leadership, Pain Pill Doctors are leaders who only approach change from within the limits of what they already know….their lifetime accumulation of knowledge, skills, experiences and expertise.

For example, a group of church staff are sitting around the conference table analyzing a proposed change. Remember, they are all examining the same change initiative. Let’s see what happens.

The Senior Pastor concludes that the change must be approached from a spiritual perspective and determines a sermons series is required to introduce the change.

The Executive Pastor concludes the change must be approached from an organizational structure perspective and recommends a staff restructuring to facilitate the change.

The Business Administrator concludes the change must be approached from a financial perspective and recommends a stewardship campaign to fund the change.

The Communications Minister concludes the change must be approached from a communications perspective and offers a plan to communicate the change.

The Discipleship Minister concludes the change must be approached from a discipleship perspective and proposes a series of small group lessons to teach about the change.

Notice how each staff member approached the change and offered a strategy based upon their area of expertise. Relying only on one perspective could have serious implications on the effective communication, acceptance and implementation of the change initiative. Recognizing we all have limited perspectives and solutions is a key step toward improving our change leadership skills.

The Power of Various Perspectives in Change Leadership

Studies show that only about 10% of our knowledge, or perspective, comes from our own experience and the remaining 90% we receive from others. So, one of the principal ways we can overcome the limits of our own perspectives is to intentionally seek the advice and counsel of others whenever possible.

Direct sources like conversations with church staff, subject matter specialists, key lay leaders, committees and consultants can make important contributions to broadening the change leader’s perspective. Indirect sources like books, web sites, and television can also reduce the limitations we all have by exposing us to more alternatives.

In today’s church culture it is not possible for any one individual to amass enough personal knowledge, skills and experience to lead change independently. When we seek the viewpoints of other people, either from direct conversations or indirect sources, we multiply our perspective and dramatically increase our ability to analyze and lead change effectively. Try it….you’ll notice the difference!



Posted on July 28, 2015

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5