In my last post I revealed that Sammy Baxter The Wonder Dog had transitioned over the rainbow bridge. He was 15 years, 2 months and 25 days old. I was very public and unapologetic about my grieving and gratitude of this little dog.
I attributed Sammy to saving my life. When we got Sammy at 8 weeks old, he was super adorable and cute as a button. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in a severe depression. I was working overnights managing the logistics, merchandise and a team of 100+ for a $40M business unit, working 60-80 hour weeks and commuting 70 miles a day.
I was exhausted. Eventually, I found that I couldn’t get myself out of bed to go to work.
My husband was doing everything. I mean everything. He’d take care of the house, groceries, prepare and make dinner. He’d come and wake me up when dinner was ready. I couldn’t get up. He’d even try to pull me out of bed. Nothing.
That’s when Sammy would come in. He had this big grin and sparkle in his eye that I would be compelled to get up and pet him. He made my heart happy and brought me joy. I don’t know what would have become of me if I didn’t have Sammy to rescue me out of my deep dark pit of depression. Thanks to Sammy, I started to get better, slowly and little by little until I was feeling good enough to seek out therapy. This process took 4 years. The healing journey is not speedy. So yeah, I grieved a lot for this little guy.
So many people reached out to me to connect and share their own experiences of helping their beloved pets transition. Influential leaders who totally have all their $h!t together sharing stories of grief and sorrow over losing that special four legged love. This is one of the gifts that our four legged friends bring us—a connection to our humanity and our capacity to love and care for another being.
It’s this connection to our humanity and our capacity to genuinely care for someone else that makes an excellent leader.
Don’t mistake this for being fluffy or woo. This is warrior-level servant-leadership in action.
If you truly cared about your team—
You would be relentless in supporting them to be their greatest version of themselves. That means challenging them to rise up and doing that in a way that elicits greatness from within.
You would fiercely protect a positive and emotionally safe company culture that creates the space for people to take risks and have a place to land that isn’t covered in metaphorical broken glass.
You wouldn’t tolerate an environment where people are stressed out and overwhelmed. It’s bad for business.
You’d take action and remove obstacles and clear the path for your team so their days could be easier and therefor, more enjoyable.
You’d infuse the workplace with acknowledgement, recognition, joy and positive thinking.
You’d model how to have direct conversations in a masterful way that produced extraordinary results and left your team thinking you were amazing.
This takes a lot of personal growth to be able to do these things. A Harvard Business Review article shows that managers are operating in the workforce for a decade before they receive any training. A DECADE! That’s crazy! It’s no wonder that toxic workplaces are now the 5th leading cause of death in the US.
Senior leadership needs to take responsibility for their leadership teams. This means promoting people into leadership, not because they were the best individual contributor, but because they have leadership qualities. Then, they must invest to develop and elevate their leadership qualities into great leaders who then develop their team and future leaders.
That is how to build a sustainable business that will thrive and sustain the hard times. And, my friends, hard times are coming.
Now is the time to start shoring up the bones of your business, which are your people. Part of the training that managers need to have is how to have truly effective conversations. Learning how to masterfully navigate holding their people accountable while calling them up into the next level of their greatness while gracefully handling the human elements that life might bring.
Many of your team members may be suffering from the following:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): affects 6.8 million adults, yet only 43.2% are receiving treatment. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. GAD often co-occurs with major depression.
Panic Disorder: affects 6 million adults. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
Social Anxiety Disorder: affects 15 million adults, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.
Specific Phobias: Specific phobias affect 19 million adults, or 8.7% of the U.S. population.
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): affects 2.2 million adults. The average age of onset is 19.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): affects 7.7 million adults. Women are more likely to be affected than men.
Major Depressive Disorder: The leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3. Affects more than 16.1 million American adults. While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5 years old. More prevalent in women than in men.
Here’s the weird irony of it all—so many of these disorders that your team may be suffering through is due to work. It’s stress and overwhelm and fear that comes from the place they spend their 6-12 hours at with people who haven’t been trained adequately.
We’ve got to stop the madness.
Seriously, investing in your people is no longer optional if you want your business to survive. If the people inside the walls of the business are slowly dying, then so is your business. One of the biggest ways you can make a positive impact on all of this is to genuinely care about your employees and engage with them.
For those on your team who have mental health issues, you may be their Sammy. You may be the one with the big smile and the sparkle in your eye that makes their heart happy and helps them move towards health, healing and their greatness.
I’ve had clients hire me to help them have some serious crunchy conversations because they weren’t able to create change on their own. One particular time, I facilitated a conversation with a woman who was severely under-performing and had been for over a year. It was largely due to the fact that her mother was dying from brain cancer and she was the primary caregiver.
This conversation took mastery. I was gentle with her yet firm in certain areas. We were clear on what the bottom-line expectations where for the job. After she said she’d work harder, I said no. Working harder wasn’t the answer. In fact, she probably needed to work less and be more focused and present when she was there. We offered to reduce her hours to accommodate for all the doctor’s visits. We brainstormed on what she really needed and wanted.
I had a firm conversation about the importance of self-care and walked her through creating a realistic plan of self-care for herself. It’s the place of BOTH / AND. Yes, there are minimum expectations that need to be upheld. AND I can care for the human across the table and give her my absolute best in order to serve her to her highest good. As a human walking on this planet, what’s your legacy?
The legacy I’m working on leaving behind is someone who loved deeply, laughed lots, and impacted millions by changing how we engage with each other at work and home. And I owe all of it to Sammy.
You know, I’m starting to think every leader needs to have a dog to help keep them connected to their humanity and mushy hearts.
Humanity and heart--that’s the key to greatness and producing radical results.