July, for me, is a month of introspection. You see, I literally lost July 2014 (and darn near my life!).
It started out normal enough. I went over to the corner pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my daughter, and maybe a lottery ticket (I was feeling lucky – go figure). Next thing you know, I’m in the emergency room waiting patiently for a bed in the ICU to be assigned. I was an Intensive Care patient for three days. I think I spent another two in a normal room. “Normal” meaning that I wasn’t under 24-hour surveillance, or rigged to my bed with more cables, lines and beepy things than I could count. Eventually, I was allowed to go home.
Not that much changed.
At home, my wife and daughter kept what might have been a closer eye on me than the combined staff of the Hershey Medical Center ICU. For days, everything I ate, said or tried to do (trust me, the emphasis was on try, not do) was met with great concern over whether or not it was “time” for me to be trying something as taxing as getting out of the bed, walking to the recliner and promptly falling back asleep. (Once, I tried to change the channel on the TV by myself – but couldn’t pick up the remote. At least nobody was there to see that not happen!)
Meanwhile, back at the office, life went on.
Folks did their jobs. Without me. Work got done. Without me. New clients were signed. Without me.
After two weeks of this nonsense, I tried – valiantly – to get back into the office. Something had to be done! I had to make sure that, well, that I was necessary. I made it past my well-meaning guardians on the home front exactly twice. I got to the office just in time to collapse on the sofa. Both times. (It is a very comfortable sofa.)
I don’t remember much about those two visits, except that, well, folks were doing their jobs. Work was getting done. Clients were being signed. Right there, in plain view of my very comfortable spot.
Over the next week or so, I had time – and little else – to dwell on my place in the universe and, for that matter, my place in the company. After weeks of near-helplessness, you might think that this would lead to a far scarier prospect – irrelevancy. But in reality, it was just the opposite.
July 2014 sucked. I am grateful that I lived to tell the tale – don’t get me wrong. But the real gift – the real tale I want to share – is a lesson I didn’t expect to learn.
I knew I had a pretty strong team at the office. I knew how well they played together when things are going well. But I got to see how they responded when things didn’t go according to plan (like when the boss disappears for a month!). I got to watch them, each in his or her own way, step up to the plate, dig in, and knock pitch after pitch right out of the park. Their “we don’t need no stinking bosses” performance didn’t doom me to irrelevancy. To the contrary, it’s precisely why I’m here today!
When I returned to limited duty (and some light international travel, because I’m really that stubborn) in August 2014, I was a man on a mission. I’d finally figured out what leadership gurus had been saying for decades. The boss’s job is NOT to be the most-capable fill-in-the-blank in the building. No, the boss’s Numero Uno responsibility is to surround him-or-herself with the best, brightest and most-capable fill-in-the-blanks, then dedicate him-or-herself to the herculean task of supporting THEM.
So this July, I encourage you to take stock of your team, of your relationship with them. Think about what it means to support them. Sure, a new chair or computer upgrade would be appreciated. But I hope you’ll consider that supporting them means more than spending money. Sometimes, they just need to know you have their backs. When they know you do, they’ll have yours.