Today was an interesting one, and a long one at that. To finish up my day, I celebrated being able to relax by popping in a DVD copy of the 1999 cult classic “Office Space.” (If you haven’t seen it and want to, beware, it contains some adult themes and you should probably have a pretty good sense of humor to appreciate it.)
Anyway, the plot involves a young guy, Peter, working for a tech firm where he’s just another number, an inconsequential body to fulfill the tasks necessary for assisting banks with the dreaded “Year 2000” switch. (Y2K flashbacks, anyone?) Peter, thoroughly disenchanted with his job and to a degree, life, joins his girlfriend in a therapy session and inadvertently gets hypnotized. The result? He hasn’t a care in the world — including holding onto his job.
When his alarm clock sounds at 8am the next morning, Peter nonchalantly decides to shut it off and keep sleeping. His home phone goes off several times as Peter passes the day away resting contently in bed. When he finally gets up in the afternoon, he checks his messages — 17 of them, all from his boss wondering where he is — and right then his girlfriend calls to find out why he’s not at work.
Do know what occurred to me while watching that scene?
Not once did either of them ask Peter, “Are you okay?”
There was no concern for him whatsoever, just badgering about why he wasn’t at his job plugging away at work. His boss’ goofy messages, “Just calling to make sure you knew we started the day with our usual business hours…it’s not a half day or anything like that,” all left in condescension, as though there couldn’t possibly be a good reason for missing work. Okay, so in Peter’s case, there wasn’t one, but allow me to come to the point of this post.
Today was a long one simply because I started it at 5am and it felt almost non-stop from there with the exception of a nice lunch our company put on to celebrate June birthdays in the office. It was right before a call with a client around 4pm that it started though, this ache in the pit of my stomach. Now, nausea is anything but enjoyable, but it really is far less than that when you’re at work. I kept telling myself it would pass, that maybe I just shouldn’t have had that cup of coffee a little bit ago…yeah, that’s it. That’s what’s upsetting my stomach. But in my gut (pun intended?) I knew better. Something was not right.
After cancelling a 4:30pm meeting with my boss, I made a frantic beeline out of the office to head home; in this attempt to leave so I could let this nausea pass in the comfort of my own home, I only managed to tell one of my colleagues I was going and even left my cell phone behind at my desk (eek!).
I’ll spare you the details since they’re not important anyway, but let’s just say I ended up going back for my phone later and didn’t finish cleaning the interior of my car until sometime after 8pm. What’s really important to this story is this: four people checked in on me. Four different people texted me, and each one asked “Are you okay?” in one way or another. And I hadn’t even mentioned feeling sick to anyone outside of work.
But wait, I told you I only mentioned leaving to one of my colleagues and my boss. So, who are these people showing concern? As a matter of fact, they were all colleagues. Ayneka, (you should see her, driven as ever), was who I told that I wasn’t feeling well and leaving, and she very sweetly checked in on me later to see if I was feeling better. Cheryl (what a saint she is) was more than willing to drive my cell phone out to me after I Slack messaged her when I got home to see if I had, in fact, left my phone on my desk. But I couldn’t let her do that, my mistake wasn’t her responsibility to fix (spoiler, I’m not good at letting people take care of me or go out of their way for me, hence my going back to the office to retrieve my phone). Shari, self-proclaimed (and everyone agrees) “Mom” of the office had apparently been talking with my boss and reached out to see how I was doing. And then there’s my boss, our CEO, Greg. He texted to tell me that he hoped I was feeling okay and make sure that I was doing alright. I mean, who gets a text from their CEO just to check in?
Wow. Just wow.
The only people who knew I wasn’t feeling well, and every single one of them reached out to me to see how I was doing. 4/4. I can’t tell you how humbling and good that feels knowing they cared.
So, what’s the rub?
Leadership. It’s been a big topic of discussion at work recently. “What does it mean to be a leader?”, “What does leadership look like?” and so on. I’m not going to pontificate on the answers to those questions, but I will tell you what I know to be true and was so brilliantly illustrated to me today.
Leaders stand by their team, they’re right there with them to guide as much as to seek advice. Some people will tell you that leaders stand out among the rest, but the very best leaders stand with the rest. They don’t always know the answer, they don’t dictate, they don’t order. Sure, they delegate, but even in that, they are right beside their team members because they know each person has a role to play toward the mission they all share. And on top of that, leaders understand that they’re not special — everyone is capable of being a leader. (I hope I didn’t burst anyone’s bubble!) And that’s simply because no man is an island. No one can do everything alone. We all need each other to lead in our own specialties, to contribute by sharing the talents and skills we have.
While I know that the four people who checked on my well-being today did so because they’re truly wonderful human beings, I also know it’s because they know how to lead. They’re right there with their team member, making sure she’s taken care of and not standing alone. They know that leadership means supporting their team members, even with something as simple as asking “Are you okay?“
Want to be a leader? The first step is to look outside of yourself, because it’s all about supporting others.
(Thank you, guys!!)