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Don’t Count Out the Out of Character

My father would kill me if he knew I told you this, but he’s been battling with a couple of serious illnesses for the last two years. A few weeks ago he had a hematoma in his head, which required a little brain surgery, so for the last few weeks I’ve been back and forth on the highways visiting and making sure he’s not giving his rehab nurses too much trouble.

My father is very proud and very private. He’s the kind of person that will never tell you that he’s hurting, troubled, etc., because he’s always been the strong one…the one that ensures that everyone else is ok and taken care of. I think a little of him wore off on me. It turns out that he probably wouldn’t have been admitted to the hospital if my mother didn’t notice that he was doing some things differently around the house, because he’s the type that if you asked how he was, he’d say, “I’m great! Couldn’t be better.” Mom noticed that he wasn’t finishing his crossword puzzles as quickly as usual. He started to forget some things. His thoughts weren’t as clear. His normal, solid performance was starting to slip and he didn’t want anyone to worry.

My father acted out of character and mom took action…she didn’t make assumptions…she didn’t discount him, and she actively managed the situation by not waiting on him to tell her that something was wrong but by paying attention and brining it to his. Why am I telling my family’s business? Because as I sat in his hospital room with him this weekend I had an epiphany. I thought of a workplace parallel that may help you and your teams, especially if you have one (or a few) of these types of individuals.

We have employees that come to work and do what’s necessary, don’t bother anyone and never seen phased by the happenings of the world. They are dependable and trustworthy and consistent. They listen to everyone else’s problems yet never share theirs. Not because they don’t have them, but because they don’t want to trouble anyone. Sometimes they don’t know to articulate their worries to those they work with. It may be that they don’t won’t to be accused of making excuses or of loosing their touch or interest.

When our stars show that they’re human, it’s a leader’s responsibility to investigate, not get worried. When our rocks miss a deadline or stop communicating the way we’re used to, it’s our responsibility to check on ‘em, not to count ‘em out. We don’t ask our people “Is everything ok?” our enough. We don’t let them know often enough that if they ever need to talk, we’re available.

doorWe have created “Open Doors” but have forgotten that it’s sometimes necessary to walk out of them and meet people at their desks. We tell people that they can tell us anything, yet we never give them a reason to believe that’s we’re sincere.

So I close by saying take a few minutes each day to not only give directives but also to make sure your employees are well. Not only will you make communicating easier, you might also connect better by finding out what’s really important to them and what keeps them ticking. When we know what makes them tick or are able to relieve them of some of the weight that they’re carrying, they may be able to lift a little more for our companies.

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