From Death Do I Start
Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men.
I had the pleasure, and the torture, of attending a memorial service yesterday for a young girl not yet 15.
While the death of anyone is difficult, maybe even maddening, this particular tragedy screamed at those who mourned…it was simply too early for her to die, too early for her to vacate the lives of her family and friends, too early for her to lose faith that happiness, peace and comfort are possible.
This morning, while not yet emotionally removed but the events of yesterday, I realize I received some valuable lessons about parenting, love and grief.
While I am not able to speak about how this event has affected me as a mother, I will attempt to communicate how the lessons I received will affect me as a leader.
My first lesson came from the grieving mother. While demonstrating much courage, she stood at the microphone, looked at us through teary eyes and choked out that she had not really “liked” her daughter for years. Not because she didn’t love her with all of her heart, but because she didn’t take the time to get to know her daughter “well enough” to like who she had become.
Take a moment to absorb that thought.
As a parent, as a spouse, as a child, as a friend, please think about it.
This message should not be minimized.
Supervisors and managers fall into the same trap.
We often lose sight of who our employees are, what they are struggling with, what they celebrate, what they hope and dream about regarding their careers, their future, etc.
We lose sight of these things because sometimes, our employees get on our nerves.
They irritate us, they piss us off, they inconvenience our master plan!
My employees are not hiding from me, they aren’t reclusive hermits wanting to be left alone, they aren’t withholding or denying me the opportunity to know them.
Their idiosyncrasies, faults and scars are insights to who they are! But instead, I have often treated these things as “excuses” to not getting to know my employees better. Or worse, I have listed these faults as “reasons” to not liking them.
Have you do the same thing?
Perhaps we should challenge ourselves to get to know our staff.
Perhaps, as my mother told me many many years ago, we should look hard enough and “find something to love.”
Maybe, just maybe, we could salvage a relationship, we could increase engagement and commitment, or we could prevent a resignation.
The second lesson I learned yesterday was given to me by the pastor. He offered up the poem “Parable of Immortality” written by Henry Van Dyke.
In the context of leadership, this poem reminds me of the many times I, when receiving a resignation of a great team member, grew weary, hurt, or even angry that he/she chose to move on.
Has that happened to you?
Have you found yourself thinking the employee was crazy to think the “new job” would be better? Have you suggested to the resigning employee that no one else could offer greater opportunities than what you were offering?
Have you allowed your own resentment to minimize the value the employee had given you and your team?
Have you allowed your own anger or concerns to overshadow the benefit you have enjoyed because of his/her presence?
I have…but I will not again.
The fact is, for as long as I am a supervisor, I will have employees who need and want to move on.
I suppose I can, as I have in the past, fight with this fact.
I can grow so concerned with the consequences that I lose sight of the possibilities.
I can become resentful, angry and suspicious of what and who will follow.
I can play the victim…or the martyr.
Or, like the poem suggests, I can let go of my own needs and be happy for the departed, and be happy for those about the meet them.
As a leader, I should revel in the fact that my exiting employees will be received in a manner befitting of their talents and skills.
- Someone will benefit from their talents.
- Someone will feel the security and trust that I did with them at the helm.
- Someone will get the opportunity to watch these employees thrive and develop in their careers.
As a leader, I should find happiness in the fact that my “previous” employees will enjoy their new journeys.
Those were my lessons from yesterday. I hope you, too, can find something of value in them.