Old Wounds (Issue 756)

In which we are reminded to take care of “injuries” in our client relationships lest they come back to cripple us later.

As I rose from my office chair and took a first step, a muscle in my left calf twinged. Felt like someone had plunged a needle into my calf.

I stopped and stretched it a little, gently and slowly. Took another step. Twinged again. I took a deep breath and repeated the slow stretch. The twinge stopped.

So, I walked slowly to the office kitchen for some water. As I turned to return to my desk, twinge encore…. Same muscle.  iStock_000000265614Small

Funny… I remember exactly where I was – the first injury to that leg. My son was playing in a soccer tournament. Feeling a bit frisky, I went off for a walk and jog between his games. On the last leg of the jog, headed across a field toward the main buildings, the muscle began to stiffen a little. I stopped to stretch it a bit, then kept jogging, thinking that the continued use would work out the kink. Every time I pushed off with my left foot, I could feel the twinge a bit until….the muscle suddenly locked up and I collapsed on my back in the grass grasping my calf, wondering who’d stabbed me. The grass was wet, I remember, and it prickled me through my t-shirt.

Long story short, a combination of massage, anti-inflammatory medication, and rest enabled me to get around for the rest of the tournament.

I never sought professional help for the injury – a trainer, physical therapist – either immediately or in the intervening ten years. I just led it ride. As a result, there’s no fixing it now. From time to time, that same muscle without warning fires up during a walk or a run, so I stretch it and rest for a couple of weeks …. And then it’s quiet for months, even years.

Until this morning… again. CRUMBS! No walk today, it appears.

Old injuries never die. They just come back to haunt you later. There’s a company to whom I consulted years ago. Major engagement. Very complicated. Long story short, there were challenges – differences of opinion. Some of the client team lost their jobs. Our engagement ended abruptly.

I never sought help at the time to resolve the differences. I just rested the account for a few years and then began to develop relationships with new leaders who joined the company after the ‘in question’ engagement; they didn’t know about it.

Yet, every time I’ve developed some momentum with one of the company’s new leaders… there’s been a moment when the words, “I’m sorry we can’t work with you” have been spoken.

Turns out, there’s one person, whose name I’ve never been able to discover, somewhere still in the company’s purchasing department, who concluded I was responsible for the unpleasantness in the initial engagement and that the company would never again hire me.

It’s the old injury twinging, like a needle in the calf. No fixing it now. I should have gone to see a trainer at the time….

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