The Natchez Trace is a great place to walk/jog—lots of hills and beautiful scenery. I was only about 100 yards into my jog when I came across a bright red cardinal in the road. It watched me warily but did not move as I went past.
About ten yards later I realized something was wrong—the bird was stunned or hurt in some way. I paused, looked back, but then kept going. Another 50 yards and I looked back again—it was still in the middle of the road, a ready candidate to become road-kill. But, I kept going.
Every step become harder as my mind filled with images of a squashed bird and how Dottie was going to be mad at me for not helping it. Finally, at about two miles, I turned around and jogged back as fast as I could—dreading what I would find. Fortunately, it was gone. Either helped by someone else or recovered enough on its own to fly away.
Workplaces are full of wounded people. Wounded by abusive bully leaders, by gossip, by change that is leaving them behind, by personal issues that are spiraling out of control. You can see it in their faces, and you can see it in their performance.
One of the most difficult tasks for any leader is to take some time for the wounded. The leader can’t heal everyone, but it is amazing what a kind word, or cup of coffee, or a hug (appropriate hug), or a “why don’t you go home a little early today” will do to bring some relief to a wounded follower. Of course, if the leader is the one causing the wounds, only a permanent change in behavior combined with “I am so sorry” will help.
Look around at your followers today. Do you see someone that could use some encouragement and comfort? Do something. And don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t your job—it is!
By the way, I did better this morning. I was back on the Natchez Trace and there was a turtle…. (I’m getting ahead of myself; more about turtles in my next post.)
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner
As Dick’s former assistant I saw this leadership principle in action many times during the 5+ years I worked for him. His heart for people and willingness to get involved (even in the messy places) is something he is highly respected for . Watching his example not only taught and encouraged me, but challenged me to engage differently with the people around me. We have opportunities around us every day to engage with people and make a difference.
P.S. If you have the opportunity to schedule or attend one of Dick’s workshops – do it! It will be well worth your time and investment!
Thanks, Laura. You were sensitive to people’s wounds long before you came to work for me. I loved the way you were a sounding board for so many. I was privileged to have you as my team mate.
Wonderful reminder. Sometimes, we get so busy as leaders and driven for goals that we don’t take time for the “stunned Cardinals.”
I recommit to doing this.
All business is personal.