“Mom is in intensive care on a breathing machine. Come as quickly as you can.” My brother interrupted my Friday night happy hour a few years ago with those words. As you can imagine, I was horrified! How could my mom who I’d just spoken to hours before be in intensive care? The earliest flight I could get on was the following morning and those overnight hours felt like a lifetime.
I called my then leader who we will refer to as Mr. C. I told him that I had an urgent family matter; my mom was in intensive care on a breathing machine in Florida. I needed to travel and I wasn’t sure when I’d be back. Mr. C told me not to worry. In his opinion my situation was more important than worrying about work. I should go take care of my mom and once things were stabilized to update him. He repeated that I should not worry about work; things would be taken care off in my absence. When I arrived in Florida, I went straight to the intensive care unit to find out what was happening with my mom. The situation was dire. She’d had silent complications from her initial chemo treatments which resulted in heart failure. She’d had a heart attack. The good news was she’d recover. When I saw my mom connected to all those machines, I felt so heart broken. I sat with her and soon she opened her eyes. She was alert and wanted to communicate however with the tubes down her throat she was unable to speak. She motioned for a writing pad and we quickly got one. She then asked to take that tube from down her throat. I knew then that she’d be okay.
The 4 days that I sat at my mom’s hospital bedside, Mr. C called every single day. Mr. C was Vice President of the organization I worked for and in my role, I reported directly to him. Mr. C really touched my heart during those difficult days. He checked on mom’s recovery and asked questions about her health and about the doctor’s diagnosis. He asked about me. He wanted to know how I was coping mentally and if I was eating and sleeping. He asked about us financially; if we had sufficient funds to live and whenever I asked about the business operations he directed the conversation back to my mom’s recovery. At no juncture did Mr. C inquire when I would be returning to work and at no time did he make me feel like my absence was a burden to the organization. As a matter of fact, Mr. C made me feel like a valued member of the team and his compassion touched my heart.
A week later, when I returned to work, I wowed to do whatever I could, to make Mr. C a superstar. His success became personal to me. I made the decision that a leader like him deserved 200% of my effort. During a time when it felt like my world was falling apart, Mr. C stood with me and gave me the sense that he was a solid rock in my life; one that I could depend on to get through a very difficult situation. I dedicated my work hours to not only being the best Director I could possibly be but also to making Mr. C’s work life as easy as I possible by pulling my own weight and also by helping wherever else I could.
I took many lessons away from this experience. My mom’s sudden hospitalization made me realize how fickle life is. It taught me to value every moment I’ve been granted and to show love to my family and friends in every single encounter I have with them. From a leader’s perspective, I learned that treating employees as human beings is vital to building a relationship that leaves impact and legacy. I also learned that leaders who help employees through difficult situations and circumstances usually benefit from more dedicated employees. A leader who values people over profits will always win the respect of his/her team and their employees will be more vested in helping them be super successful.