Last week a lesson on flexibility in leadership was brought right home to me in a very personal way. Kathryn and I were right in the middle of a meeting and the veterinarian called to give me the news about Maddie. I was informed that her spine was broken and that there may be no hope for her and we may have to put her to sleep. I was a wreck. I have never closed out a meeting before on that kind of note-- anywhere that I can remember -- but I said, "Kathryn, I have to go quickly..." I had to tell Larry the vet was on the phone and knew in less than a minute his world was going to fall apart. Kathryn not only said, "Go!" but she said she'd take care of handling all of my appointments for the day. I had a full schedule of meetings and in addition to her work, she handled them for me in her customarily outstanding way. All this was done when she was racing around trying to get her home ready for her parents to come for a week! So she was balancing her work, prepping her house, and then my unexpected workload that was suddenly placed upon her by me. As she says, it's "her job" however I've been managing people long enough to know that even when something is my job it doesn't make it any easier especially if I wasn't expecting it!! (Aren't there parts of your job description you'd rather not have there? Seriously. Surprises are my least favorite, bar none.)
I really don't know what I'd have done had she not been flexible. That morning while Maddie was in surgery (before we knew the gravity of her condition and just thought her external wounds were being operated on) I already had a hard time concentrating and apologized to a client that I was not myself...had a hard time focusing in on what I was doing...made a mental note to do something extra off the clock for that client since I was physically present but felt like half my brain wasn't showing up. What if I would have had to go through that for four additional meetings that day, having just heard the news about Maddie and pretty much sobbing along with my husband all day and night for 24 hours? It would have been horrible.
This gave me a different window into flexibility from the other side. There haven't been many times if ever that I've asked somebody to do something like this for me let alone a boss. I practically jump off a cliff to get done what needs to be done no matter what comes up, and have often worked right through difficulties, in fact that is something I rather excel in. But emotionally I was in no shape to do that on Tuesday.
Hopefully through her example I'll be able to become more flexible in my own areas of leadership, when warranted. Something I've realized is that I get so irritated about requests for flexibility from people who take undue advantage that I tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater and chafe against anyone or anything that requires an adjustment. The truth is, everyone is NOT the same, and especially for those who are faithful, dependable and loyal we need to make adjustments when justified.
It's also warmed my heart so much that she has called to check in on Maddie (and me!) quite a bit. What can I say...she's just Uh-MAY-zing and I'm so blessed to have her in my life.