My father passed away peacefully on September 4, 2019. He spent 50 days in the hospital leading up to that moment. My family and I spent those 50 days with him. That time was filled with fear and is a painful blur. It is also a reminder that when we choose to show up with beauty instead of fear, great things start to happen. I wonder how that experience could be applied to everyday life, particularly the workplace. Here are five things that every leader should embrace to create beauty at work:
1. Empathy gives meaning to work
My father spent 8 of 50 days in ICU. He was fully sedated and on machine ventilation for most of that time. To everyone in ICU, he was a severely ill patient, in his end stage of life, in serious condition, and with diminishing hope for recovery. This type of case was not uncommon. It was the ICU, after all. To my family and me, this severely ill patient was our dad, uncle, friend, brother and husband. He had a colorful history and equally colorful personality. He was funny, kind, stood by the underdog, and was the best darn storyteller on earth. But the medical staff didn’t know this about my father. They saw a frail patient that needed medical attention. While my father was in good care, it felt like everyone was most interested in checking their boxes. We felt like we were entering the unknown and we were petrified.
Fear can bring out the worst in people. It can breed mistrust, anger, confusion, paranoia, control, and worse. We watched the medical staff like hawks, we challenged what they were doing and saying, we interrupted them with questions, we sought their attention constantly. Behaving like this made us more exhausted than confident. I am sure that everyone became exhausted from us, too.
And then we decided to do something that would send the next 40+ days on a different path. We introduced everyone to ‘Dave’, also known as ‘Big Dave’, ‘Dave the Rave’, and ‘The Legend’. We filled the room with pictures from my father’s life. We created a fun facts sheet that said ‘Dave’s Faves’. We told stories about my dad when medical staff were in the room with us. It was a comfort to hear the staff address my dad by his nicknames, to be sure he was laying on the side that he favored, and to hear them tell my dad the latest score of the NY Yankees in hopes that he would hear them.
All of a sudden, the staff became advocates of ‘Dave’. Their work moved from checking boxes to making my dad more comfortable and cared for. And almost instantly, we began to feel more cared for, too.
Associating your work with an actual person makes it incredibly meaningful.
2. Uniting around a mission makes everyone go far together
We created a manifesto called #TeamDave and we made sure that everyone knew they were a part of it. Whether you were taking care of my father’s medical needs, making critical life decisions, keeping my father comfortable or looking handsome, calling in with positive thoughts, or coming to say a prayer…you were part of #TeamDave and you had the important purpose of helping my father thrive during this crucial moment of life. Our mission hung on the wall next to ‘Dave’s Faves’ and all of the pictures to help remind everyone they were part of something great.
#TeamDave included the nurses, doctors, social worker, patient advocate, nutritionist, palliative care team, therapists, our family, and my dad. Every moment working together counted and we kept each other informed and accountable.
#TeamDave united us in something common and when someone repeated it, we knew exactly what it meant.
3. Community creates connection
The outpouring of love that came from everyone during that time was enough to move mountains. I believe it was enough to bring my father back to consciousness and out of ICU after 8 days on ventilation. Every last note, wish, thought, feeling was posted on a yellow post-it and hung right next to ‘Dave Fave’s’ and ‘#TeamDave’ for everyone to see.
What happened next was inspiring to witness. Doctors, nurses, and medical staff started to sign and post their own messages for my father. Suddenly the room radiated with joy and even the nurses took notice about how happy the floor felt when they entered the doors.
Community has the power to inspire feelings, ignite action, and to remind everyone that they are connected to something bigger.
4. Showing up as your best self is the most powerful thing you can do
All that love and support reminded my father how cared for and important he was. I believe it also gave him the energy and the encouragement to show up as his very best self. 50 days in the hospital, not able to leave the bed, barely able to move his limbs, and my father showed up every single day demonstrating his unique strengths – humor, patience, acceptance, and serenity. That became our last experience with him. It leaves us inspired to be our best, too.
Imagine the impact and influence that you can have on others by simply showing up with the strengths that are unique to you. Ask yourself every day, what am I best known for and what type of impact do I want to create with it today? Get busy being your best.
5. People want to know that they matter. Start here, always.
At my father’s memorial service, the very first thing that people did when they saw the picture boards was check if they were in the pictures, too. Even at the very end of life, people simply want to know that they matter. Just like my family needed to know that my father’s life mattered to the medical staff, just like the medical staff needed to know that their work mattered to my father, just like my father needed to know that he mattered to his loved ones, it was also true for others to know that they mattered to him.
Helping someone feel like they matter builds appreciation, confidence, loyalty and trust. And together with empathy, purpose, community and strength it creates beauty in your life. I am convinced it can do the same for your life at work.
Five simple truths. If they carried enough magic to turn fear into a beautiful transition from life, they surely can turn business into a beautiful place to work.
If you would like to know how you can start leading joy in your workplace, schedule a FREE 30 minute consultation with me.
The world needs your beauty more than ever.