I went back to my old workplace today. I’ve only been gone for 3 months but the organization has undergone a tremendous amount of change. I love change. However, change is not always beautiful. And change without growth is kinda pointless. I love the saying “Change is mandatory. Growth is optional.” It’s just so true. I think the major difference between change and growth has everything to do with people.
I tried to soak up as much time with “my people” (my former co-workers) in between working at my new job. If you are reading and I didn't get to connect with you...I miss you and will see you next time. For those I caught up with this time, as I listened to you all, my friends and coworkers, I was reminded of an important leadership concept: people matter.
My final paper in grad school was on what I felt was the most significant thing I learned in school. I started the paper with something like “Everything I learned can be summarized in one word: people.” People should be your first priority. And not people in the sense that you have 4,000 employees but rather people in the sense that Sally, who happens to work for you and is a valued employee, is struggling with life and needs support so she will remain one of the 4,000 employees. There’s a big difference between a number and a person. BIG difference. BIG.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals are just people who love taking care of other people. So as a healthcare leader, you have to consider both the people you are leading and also the people (patients) they are taking care of. I had a quote posted in my old office, “If you aren’t taking care of a patient, you better be taking care of someone who is taking care of a patient.” This pretty much sums up my view of being a leader. My job as a manager was to ensure the unit ran appropriately but my role as a manager was to take care of my team. You have to see the best in each team member and motivate them to be the best version of themselves. And you have to forgive and permit second and third chances. You have to recognize that if your employees’ lives are balanced, work will not be their first priority. And it shouldn’t be. Life should come first. The trick is learning how to let them to live, support them and still keep work in the top 5 things in their lives.
As I connected with former co-workers, I listened to them tell me about what was going on in their lives. Tales about illness, moving houses, finding better job opportunities for family life, pregnancies, struggles,…I could go on but you get the picture of our conversations. We talked very little about work. They talked about work only as it related to their lives…how work fit into their lives. As a manager, you have to manage in such a way that work fits into the lives of your employees. You have to build relationships.
Jesus was spectacular at building relationships. There's so many examples of Jesus building relationships with His people. Actually to think of it, there's equally as many examples of Jesus building relationships with people that were not His people. In the book of Romans, Paul gives us great guidance on building relationships:
Romans 12: 9-13
Don't pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying. When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
And how you build relationships with your coworkers, will either build up or destroy your team. Learn to see their potential. Be a human and admit when you are wrong. Recognize the bottom line is important but it is not important as the lives of your employees. Be forgiving. Be understanding. Listen more than you talk. And when you talk, remember you are speaking to another human being. Respect every team member as a human being. And stay calm (Not sure I will ever master this one!).
So as a former manager looking in at an organization I both miss and love or just as an open letter to a future leader…remember the people. They are all that matters.
Leadership, lessons and distance,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.