Friday, March 11, 2011

The Power of One

Fridays with Susan...

I was tired beyond words.  It was Friday and I should have been anticipating the 5 o'clock horn and a restful weekend at home.  But that was not to be.  I had been there since 7:30 that morning, dealing with a relentless onslaught of challenges and problems.  It was somewhere around noon that I found out I wouldn't be going home for supper with my family, but I would be staying until at least 10:00 o'clock that night, and probably later.  Even with me doing a double shift - split between administrative duties for the first half of the day and then spending the late afternoon and evening hours working directly with the energetic young people our team supports, we would still be understaffed.  Even in the best of circumstances that meant working really hard, but this week we were faced with a very unusual set of circumstances which had taxed every member of the team to the limit.  I knew I would be having to lean unfairly into my hard-working and deeply caring teammate, Doreen.  Because of the nature of our challenges that day, she would be carrying two-thirds of the workload and responsibility (twice what would normally have been expected) while I took the easier load.  Even then, I was so tired from a week fraught with unexpected and unbelievable challenges that I didn't know how I was going to do it.  I was struggling hard with my attitude.  I couldn't stop the downward spiral of feelings.  It wasn't even close to the first time that week that I had to work hard not to give in to tears.

I can't remember if I called Belinda, or she called me, but I will never forget her words.  "What can I do?  Would it help if I came there?"  Most of you know that Belinda is not only a dear friend, but she is also my direct supervisor at work.  Working together so closely comes with its own special set of challenges by times, but it also comes with great blessing.  There is no-one I have more respect for in the field we work in and no-one I would rather look to for leadership.

I mumbled something back about how her presence would be helpful - even if she were able to serve up dinner on the plates and change the loads of laundry over as needed.  She said, "I'll be there as soon as my meeting is over today."  Even while we were making arrangements about when to expect her and what she would be bringing, I didn't quite believe my ears.  Help was on the way.

She arrived late that afternoon with coffee and herbal tea - some for the young people who live there and some for the staff who provide support.  She found a place to hang her coat and tuck away her purse.  Then she set right in to work alongside Doreen and I doing whatever she could to help.  Because she was unfamiliar with the how things are particularly done in that program,  we started firing off orders  and directions.  She took it like a real trooper.  The positive energy level in the program rose immediately and stayed until long after she left around 10:30 that night.  She came to us after an already long day of meetings with colleagues and stayed until she must have been ready to drop.

There were many kind and encouraging words which were directed our way that evening but the one thing I have heard repeated over and over again this week was simply that she had said, "This was a real eye-opener.  I can't believe how hard this team works."  She was letting us know that she "gets" it.

I suppose I could write for an hour or two about how far-reaching - and lasting - are the effects of that kind of leadership.  For instance, I felt my own attitude lift and the negativity subside.  It wasn't just a temporary feeling, either.  A full week later I am still valuing the efforts of my team more, and criticizing less.  And it didn't stop there.  The entire team, as they learned one-by-one of Belinda's willingness to come alongside and physically, literally share our burden, all of us experienced a sense of being valued in a way that could never have come through words spoken over a telephone or written in an email.  The power of her message lay in her decision to step into our hour of need and become one of us.  She identified with us.

Hmmm. When Jesus came to earth, didn't he do just that?

2 comments:

Susan said...

I hope this post didn't make things sound worse than they are! I love my job - mostly for the challenges that are presented to me on a daily basis. But last week was very unusual in terms of the kinds of challenges and the intensity. It was like all the "challenging" vibes in the universe converged on us last week. It will be over in a few weeks and things will actually be a lot better once we've weathered this storm. (One of the challenges are some major renovations going on in the house.)

In the meantime, God is teaching me much.

I also feel like there is no way I can do justice to what happened last Friday when Belinda came to the program to offer her support. There aren't words to express the far reaching effect. There's no way she can do that all the time - we need her to do all the other things that she does to support us which are part of her responsibilities and her own job description, but these precious hours, this one time - when it was Soooo needed - had an incredible positive effect...

Belinda said...

Being there last Friday was part of something profound and big that God is doing in me in terms of how I view leadership.

And lest anyone get the wrong idea from Susan's post (about me, I mean) I was humbled; so very humbled by my experience of working (and I use that term lightly) alongside that team. In my gratitude journal that night I wrote:
"An evening spent with a team of heroes." I know that we were also caring for heroes of another kind, but that is an entirely other story.