As I observe the current status of our industry, I find myself wanting more for us. I want massage therapy to be viewed with higher esteem, receive greater respect, and as an integral part of our society’s wellness.
The next thought, logically, is how does this happen? What do we need to do to grow our field?
We need to become leaders; all of us, in our own special ways, need to lead. There’s a quote that has been attributed to many, in fact, it’s even a book title…” you don’t need a title to be a leader.”
I fell into the trap of believing a title was required to lead. I cannot say I ever had aspirations of positioning myself as a leader in the industry, but when you’re gently volun-told by a highly respected colleague, it is, sometimes, difficult to say no. I become involved, first at a local level, then a state level.
Working on a local and state level provided me with the opportunity and challenge of creating engaging events and garnering participation, and I didn’t feel any substantive change was created. There was a discussion about the future of the industry and the direction within the state; the ability to create substantive change or make measurable progress was lacking. This created frustration for me because I believed we would have the opportunity to truly influence the field.
After these experiences, I can tell you, I didn’t feel like a leader.
This experience left me wondering…how do we then create change? How do we lead? Where are all the leaders?
The leaders, I’ve discovered are right in front of us.
We have the daily opportunity to create change by the influence we have on our clients, the professionalism of our behaviours, and the respectable image we perpetuate in our practices. We can be effective in every aspect of our practices. It depends on how our clients feel when they walk out the door. Did we meet their expectations? Have we treated them with the respect and dignity they deserve? Did we give them our full attention? What will they tell their friends and family about their experience?
We have a very unique industry. While we can work in environments with multiple therapists, we are often left to our own devices in the execution of our sessions. Not only do we tend to work in an isolated environment, massage therapy is, for most, a second, if not a third career. I believe our field has such an incredible array of talent, knowledge, and skill I wonder why we aren’t doing more to mine and utilize this valuable resource.
Why do some of our colleagues feel threatened by other therapists? Why are we so unwilling to share our expertise and talents with each other? Even further, why are we intimidated to share our knowledge? I’ve decided, instead of passively wondering, it’s time to take action…and here are some thoughts on simple things we can do every day.
1. Learn More
There are over 100 modalities in massage therapy.
What have you learned lately?
If your practice and bodywork are starting to feel stale and you’re getting bored, trust me, your clients know.
If your clients know, will they keep coming back or will they start looking for something else? I would take the initiative and become the something they need that they don’t know they need; let that weird sentence rattle around your brain for a little bit. This can be tricky though. I know many therapists who become CEU junkies or end up following some of the modality empires. They go from one workshop to the next without truly applying the knowledge and integrating their new-found skills into their sessions.
There is great power in understanding the concepts of skilled touch. Once we have mastered the skill of varying angles of entry into muscle, communicating effectively with our clients, understanding the anatomical and physiological repercussions of our work, we can elevate ourselves, and our practice to better serve our clients and the profession.
Once we fully understand concepts rather than just modalities, they can be easily applied and integrated with our previous knowledge. While I am a strong proponent of education; there are light years between book learning and practical learning. We have to strive to find the balance to truly become exceptional; through that example alone, we can lead our profession.
2. Share Your Knowledge
I suffer from imposter syndrome. I often ask, “why would anyone want to hear from me?” or “who am I to tell people what to do?”
As an educator, I’ve learned, those that are interested will find useful information in anything you share; those that aren’t motivated won’t; ultimately, it isn’t our responsibility to get everyone on board.
Those of us with experience have gained a vast amount of knowledge and wisdom. This information can always be shared with new therapists. If you’re working in an environment with other therapists, take the time to reach out to those that are new and share with them some of the knowledge you’ve gained.
It can be as simple as how to maintain a client base; a solid technique to use for someone’s shoulder; how to build a strong rapport with clients. Sharing knowledge doesn’t always mean leading a workshop or a huge event; it’s the little things we can do every day to help our colleagues grow and improve; this, in turn, has a direct, positive effect on our industry.
When was the last time you were able to refer a client to another therapist?
We all have those clients that don’t necessarily fit in our treatment style, or are our ideal client; why not collaborate with another therapist that can meet their needs? Personally, I do not perform prenatal massage well. I have colleagues to whom I can refer those clients during their pregnancy.
It is not important if the client returns to my practice. The focus is the service to their needs. If they know my goal is their well being, they will be willing to refer friends and family because there is comfort in the knowledge that the client’s needs are the priority and every effort will be made to ensure their satisfaction.
Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels
4. Lead By Example
Let’s be honest, some of us don’t like public speaking.
If we behave in a manner that demonstrates professional behaviour, confidence, and understanding, others will begin to emulate those characteristics. These can be very subtle and natural practices.
Show up on time, speak respectfully to your clients, listen intently to others, treat others the way you’d like to be treated. It can manifest as sharing your experiences in a workshop or class, talking about an article/blog/social media post that you read and sharing it with your colleagues, showing enthusiasm and excitement for the field, and smile and say hello to everyone along your path.
5. Appreciate Others
Acknowledge a colleague’s accomplishments. It doesn’t have to be a significant accomplishment; it can be something as simple as a full schedule or handling a difficult client with grace.
Always say thank you.
I liked to thank my colleague that properly prepared the treatment room at the end of their shift; it made the transition into my shift so much easier and, because of the way I was treated, I wanted to make sure I left the room in the same condition.
We can all agree that people enjoy talking about themselves the most, so ask them about their interests; find out what’s important to them, or what I like to do…ask them about their favourite food or candy and randomly bring it to them for absolutely no reason. I’d also suggest giving a random or well-placed compliment; we could all use a pick me up in the middle of a tough shift; find the opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face.
And most importantly…
6. Choose To Lead
All of these actions have one thing in common…we have to make the conscious decision to take on these challenges. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
I’ve noticed that as I’ve decided to take on some of these actions, my own perceptions of my colleagues and workplace have changed. If we provide positive energy and optimism, it begins to infuse us, as well as our environment. The best part; this can go beyond the workplace. All of these actions can easily be translated into our personal lives.
Reviewing these options reinforces the idea that we don’t need a title to be a leader; we just have to make a conscious choice to make a positive impact on our clients’ and colleagues’ lives. We have to decide what we want in our workplace and community. Once that is identified, the actions required to influence change will become apparent. Frustration was my motivation to seek change; I hope your inspiration comes from a more positive space. Leadership comes from within…are you ready to be the one to inspire growth and change? Warren Bennis, widely regarded as the pioneer of contemporary leadership said, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.” It appears the fundamental question begs…who then, are you?