We’re throwing it back! This week we’re showcasing a guest post from Bill Treasurer about the theme from his latest book, A Leadership Kick in the Ass, which launched on January 16, 2017.

All butt kicks, butt kickers, and butt kick recipients are unique. That said, hiney-smacking events also share a few common elements. Let’s deconstruct how a leadership kick in the ass typically works.

Four stages of every kick:

  1. Comfortable oblivion: Prior to getting kicked, you are blind to your own behavior. Life is going swimmingly and you are blithely unaware of the impending insult. Oftentimes you are full of confidence. You can quickly marshal the facts that support the value you’re adding to the organization you serve. You view yourself as competent, aware, and deserving.
  2. Startling sting: Ouch, that hurts! Butt kicks assault our comfort, and thus are painful events. As a rule, the more oblivious you are prior to the kick, the more painful the kick will feel. Most commonly, kicks provoke emotions of fear, anger, rejection, or depression. These emotions often result in defensiveness and self- righteousness—“How dare they kick my ass this way!”
  3. Change choice: After the sting starts to subside, you are left with a choice. Broadly defined, your choice comes down to accept or reject. We’ll explore this stage in more depth in a moment, because it’s the most critical stage in the butt kick process.
  4. Humility or arrogance: Depending on the decision you make in stage three, stage four will result in either deeper arrogance or genuine humility. If you double down on your conviction that your kick was an undeserved injustice, you’ll fortify your sense of righteousness. If you take the lumps the kick brings and make changes based on the information that it provides you, you’ll exit the butt kick event with a view of yourself that is more grounded, sober, and humble.

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the pants may be the best thing in the world for you.”  — Walt Disney

Coming to grips with and, hopefully, overcoming the butt kick is one of the hardest things you can do as a professional. But, as the saying goes—what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Right?

Embarrassment and humiliation cut deep, and no one escapes these funky feelings. Growth is painful. Consequently, a butt kick is nearly always a painful event initially. The end result, though, is that good and rewarding things can grow out of that pain. That growth is contingent upon acceptance.

Five tips to help you choose acceptance:

  1. Answer the holy question. Here are the four most important words in the English language: what do you want?
  2. Be courageous. Initially, your butt kick will make you feel raw and vulnerable. It takes courage to allow yourself to feel these feelings. Courage is not found in comfort. Be courageous by embracing the discomfort your butt kick causes.
  3. Control what you can. Much about a butt kick is beyond our control. We don’t get to choose, for example, the timing of the kick, who kicks us, and how hard the kick is. But how we respond to the butt kick is entirely within our control. Acceptance is easier when you have some semblance, however small, of control.
  4. Reduce judgment, increase honesty. When your butt kick comes, don’t waste time obsessing about all the ways you’ve let yourself down. Instead, get out a piece of paper and list all the ways you may have contributed to the kick. Be rigorously honest. Identify the lessons you’ll carry forward to prevent similar kicks in the future.
  5. Let go. Nearly all of life’s greatest lessons come down to these two words! Only by releasing your tight grip on how you wanted things to be can you fully accept things as they are. Let go of the condition that existed before the kick, so you can grab hold of the better leader you can be after the butt kick lessons take root.

It takes a very self-aware and courageous leader to say “I was wrong” or “I messed up” or “It was my fault.” Yet saying these powerful words often endears a leader to those being led. There is something completely disarming, and even attractive, about a leader who admits when he or she is wrong. Something profoundly important is revealed and communicated when a leader admits a mistake: his or her humanness.

Nothing stunts leadership growth as much as closed-mindedness. When your ability for self-reflection is shut down, personal accountability is next to impossible.