I believe massage therapists can become leaders in health care if we simply practice seven specific strengths and behaviors that will move us into the future of integrative medicine.
Make Your Mark
Have you ever wanted to change the world of health care? Have you wanted to inspire massage therapists to change just one thing to improve the industry for the good of every client?
Do you want to be the next person to write a popular massage therapy catchphrase? Such as, “Undress to your level of comfort” or “Let’s have you roll over and scoot down, so your head is on the massage table.” These phrases and standards in massage therapy were created in the Dark Ages of massage therapy and have not been challenged ever since.
If you want to stand up and make your mark as a leader in the massage therapy profession, there are several things you will need to do.
Who is a Leader?
Many years ago, I started researching leadership. I realized there are many effective and inspiring leaders in the world. When it comes to leadership, the people who stand out carry seven specific strengths and behaviors. I believe we can become health care leaders if we simply practice a few skills to move us into the future of integrative medicine.
As we start down this path, I want to map out the process for you:
1. Develop leadership skills
2. Connect to people
3. Create ideals to inspire
4. Create a movement of action
5. Live your dream by creating a plan
6. Execute your dream daily
7. Recruit other leaders to your cause.
This may seem overwhelming in one paragraph, but let’s break it down to steps you can achieve.
Your Orderly Life
Some of the first leadership skills to master are self-control, time management, communication and the dreaded public speaking. (This isn’t needed at first, but it will be important later.)
If you have ever been a leader, you know it requires structure and organization. If you want people to follow you, you must first manage an orderly life. If you only have a calendar for work and let the rest “happen as life happens,” you will follow life’s eventual end.
If you want to be successful with the time you have, you will need to do a few things. One of these is organizing your personal-growth, leisure and professional time. Yes, those are three categories.
Professional time is when you work for the present (your job to pay your bills). Leisure time is stuff you do that is fun but does not give you any progress toward goals (TV-watching or playing games). Personal-growth time is improving yourself, your dreams or your skill set.
People want to trust people who are working toward their common good. Understanding what a person needs to feel successful can help you create something bigger than you. Service is a very important process in understanding what others think and feel. Reaching out to your colleagues, such as through a professional association, can give you the connection and skills to become a more influential health care leader with the people you respect and want to support. It is also a good sounding board for research. By helping others, you can find out what you can change in health care.
When you last went into a swimming pool and stood still, it took a lot of energy to create a strong wave. Once you have created a wave, it is easier to keep it going as long as you stay in rhythm. Creating a movement is much the same. You alone will be required to make the first big wave. Once you have done it, other people can follow along, but you need consistency.
For example, there are a group of massage therapists on an app called Clubhouse. They call themself “Massage Therapy Open Talk.” They make sure to meet every week at the same time and chat about a chosen subject. They are “creating a bias toward action” by making sure they keep the flow moving for massage therapists to talk to each other. It is not always easy, but you can change someone’s life in a positive way with your consistency.
At this point, it may seem pointless to say, “Have a dream and build it,” but there have been many people who have done all the previous steps but did not have an end goal. Having a goal does not always mean you have mapped out every step of the path to get to success. Speed bumps will happen, flat tires will get in the way, and a very annoying person will tell you it cannot be done.
These are all a part of Murphy’s three laws: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Nothing is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer than you think it will.
Your job is to continue as a professional with patience and look toward the optimistic side of success. You have just overcome a challenge to your goal. If you lose your dream, your vision will fail. If your vision fails, your motivation will weaken. If your motivation weakens, your waves will stop. Keep your dream vivid in your mind and act upon it daily in your personal-growth time.
Recruiting other leaders to your cause is motivating! Once you are not the only one holding all the responsibility for managing the waves, you can jump out of the pool and watch the reactions. When recruiting, make sure you have painted the vision correctly and inspired the recruit to their position in the goal.
As was stated before, public speaking is naturally a must here. You can recruit one person at a time, but you will never see exponential growth without speaking to the masses. Many forms of presentation are available to us these days. Let that be through social media, magazine articles or creating online education courses with a video component. You can be successful if you reach out to hundreds of thousands and connect with a small fraction of them.
Living a successful life is not taught in school. It is demonstrated by the people who inspire each and every one of us. Let’s work together on being the people who inspire others.
Nathan Nordstrom’s Dream—and How You Can Join In
I hope you will consider my dream: a session where clients feel confident getting on the massage table so they do not feel exposed. I want to get this model in every massage therapy textbook and taught in every massage program across the country.
My call to action for the massage profession is for all massage therapists to communicate clearly with clients, especially at the first session. By asking a client to “undress to your level of comfort,” you have put off communicating about one of the biggest discomforts in massage therapy: Many clients, especially new clients, do not know what this request actually means, and it can easily destroy the trust you have built with your client if you do not address this effectively.
Let me beg of massage schools to begin addressing this change immediately. As a massage therapist, I use “The 7 steps of preparation” as a simple process to help my clients feel confident in deciding how much to disrobe. I teach this at Hand & Stone Spas across the country and hope it can help the entire massage therapy industry.
Steps of Preparation
With the client in the room and the intake interview completed, the massage therapist should address the following steps:
• I will leave the room.
• If they want to, the client may change their attire
• The client should always remain comfortable
• Give simple examples the client may be comfortable with
• Explain your professional standards
• Explain how you will return and what to expect
• Ask if any clarification is needed
As an example: “I am going to step out of the room. Please undress to your level of comfort, whether it is leaving on your underwear, taking everything off, or undressing from the waist up. It is up to you, and we can perform an effective massage whatever your level of undress. I will not be exposing any private areas or working underneath the sheet. I will knock when I return. Do you have any questions before I go?”
If you are interested in joining this process with me, I will be hosting a meeting in December and January every Tuesday evening at 9:30 pm Eastern Time on the Clubhouse app at “Massage Therapists Open Talk.” In these eight weeks, we will talk about the seven habits of being a health care leader, so bring your own goals, and we can support each other in creating success in the future of massage therapy.
About the Author:
Nathan Nordstrom, LMT, BCTMB, is director of massage therapy education and training at Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa. He has served on various boards of massage organizations, including those of the Massage Therapy Foundation and American Massage Therapy Association, and has been a massage program instructor and director. His company, Educated Touch, provides in-person and online training for massage therapists.