Like No One is Watching

Sometimes you don’t even notice the people watching.

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I mean, we’re all busy right? So many tasks to complete in a certain number of hours and only a certain number of hours in a day, can leave everything in a little bit of a blur. Constant working and feeling like you never get anywhere can leave you really frustrated and focused on all the bad things going on; even like your work was worth it.

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I recently left an agency where I had a leadership role. The past year or so, I felt stagnant and voiceless; a few months ago, I decided as soon as I finished my agreed upon term, I was going to resign. I felt it was better not to “waste” any more of my time. So, for the last few weeks I have been prepping my replacements, giving them information, who to ask for what, how to avoid regular road bumps of people’s personalities. Yesterday, I turned over my keys to my replacement and punched out for the last time. Just before I did, something unexpected happened.

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People came up to me one at a time in the last few hours and said: Thank you. Thank you for doing a good job, working hard, helping out. Finally, my partner came up, I could see on his face he was about to say something mushy. He went on to wish me good luck and that we’d probably see each other at the hospitals and then…

“…thank you for teaching me.”

Wow. Just wow. I am so humbled on so many levels; mostly that someone thinks anything I had to say helped them become a better healer, to use their hands, head, and heart to take care of others. This whole time I didn’t think anyone was watching, using the work I was putting in. I thought maybe the whole thing was a waste of time.

It was me looking in the wrong place.

I was looking for acknowledgment from those who would never be moved. I was so zeroed in on their obstinance that I couldn’t see the people who did matter: the people I was leading and teaching by example.

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Some days I am so mad with EMS and all our shenanigans and tantrums and prima donna antics that I could just spit. I wonder if anything will ever change with just the minority of forward thinkers ready to depart from the ideas of yesteryear. But then, every so often, you find out someone WAS watching. What will you be teaching them?

It seems appropriate at this time to say thank you to all the people I watched when I was a new guy and watch today to learn how to be a better provider, leader, and human being. Every day I realize there are even more than I thought, when I remember an appropriate story or anecdote related to a present situation. Yes, that even includes folks I don’t care for very much because they left a sour taste in my mouth. I thank all of you, thank you for letting me watch and learn, thank you for sharing that part of yourself.

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Gripes Go Up

I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture called “Why Just Manage When You Can Lead?” by Ray Barishansky. There were many little leadership morsels and treats to delve into a little deeper in future blogs, but today I’d like to focus on one in particular that keeps rearing it’s head in my life.

Leaders complain up, not down.

I am a member of the leadership at my agency. I was having an impromptu conversation about my frustration with some of the actions of the other leaders with a peer in the leadership group. We really got going about what got us heated. At one point I suddenly remembered the three or four other employees that were in the room watching TV… and probably listening to our bitchfest. The class immediately came to mind and I felt like an idiot.

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What did our conversation do to influence the other employees’ view of our agency?

How did our conversation affect their trust in the leadership?

Who do you think they will go tell now?

The clip above from Saving Private Ryan really illustrates this idea. Complaints should go up the chain of command where they can be addressed. Otherwise, complaints just stagnate your agency and bring morale down, particularly when an agent of change is doing the complaining. That is no good for anyone.

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Whether you are already in a position of leadership or aspire to be, be aware of what you say and where you are saying it. Words are power with both good and bad outcomes. Mom’s advice still stands, “If you don’t have anything nice to say… don’t say anything at all.”