2015 has been the hardest year of my life. If you don’t know the back story it’s here but basically, I was walking along a footpath in central Sydney and I got hit by a crashing taxi. I thought I was going to end up in a wheelchair and be disabled for the rest of my life but thanks to modern medicine and modern prayer, I can now walk again and my life is settling in to what will be, my new normal. There is an old Israeli saying that the shepherd sometimes breaks the leg of the sheep so he can carry it and that is in essence what I learned - I learned how to be carried.
So how does being carried make you a better leader?
1. Let it go
I have no idea how much the rent is on my house. I have no idea when the cleaner comes, how much internet data we have or how the toilet rolls make it into the bathroom. My housemate travels a lot for work and he manages everything to do with running our apartment- I pay a set monthly amount to him and everything just happens. The more I have surrendered knowing everything, the more he carries the weight of responsibility and I can focus on other things. Women especially are not very good at surrendering control to others and get preoccupied with the hand wash in the company bathrooms, the tidiness of the company lunch room and having sign off on every document that exists in the company. In 2016, try to let it go and focus on the big things.
2. Care for the carers
One time before an operation I asked for a Chaplain to come and pray with me. At the end, I asked her if she needed prayer and she was completely blown away. She was working in the palliative care part of the hospital which basically means that she sits with people at the end of their life and she told me there had been a few people pass that morning and she was feeling emotionally drained. The prayer had strengthened her to go back for the afternoon. Care for the carers.
3. There is no such thing as ‘self-made’
I sat down last week to write Christmas thank you cards for all the people who had helped me in 2015. The list ran from police, to paramedics, nurses, plastic surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, physios, and psychiatrists without even starting in to friends and family, whoever called the ambulance?, pastors and even my fellow patients in the ward. A huge team of people carried me through an accident that was no fault of my own. As a member of the ‘Twittering classes’ it can be very easy for us to intellectualise everything and not bend down and help people in practical ways where they are. People took me to the toilet and showered me and made hospital meals for me and I had to let go of ‘self’ and receive from others.
4. Specialists talk to other specialists
I overheard a conversation between my orthopaedic surgeon and plastic surgeon as they were standing in front of my x-ray: “you don’t want to get an infection in to one of those- nasty -chop the leg off material”. My plastic surgeon immediately ordered tests for infection and changed my wound dressing regiment. Although my leg was healing up fine, the specialists knew the real risks and took responsibility for making sure nothing went wrong. Both are respected surgeons in Sydney and they valued each other’s judgement and knowledge. Always listen to specialists and don’t be reckless with other people’s wellbeing.
5. The most valuable tool you have as a leader is empathy
I remember grumbling to God one evening in the hospital about why this had happened to me and saying ‘I didn’t ask for this’. He replied ‘nobody does’. I looked around the hospital ward and instantly realised that nobody wants to be in hospital or sick or dependent on others. Nobody asks for suffering. For all sorts of reasons, people can end up injured, down on their luck, divorced, unhappy in their job -that’s life and empathy equips you with mercy to help people up where they are at and get them going again. Your job as a leader is never to judge or strategise some intellectual breakdown of how that person got in that situation- your job is to get them up and get them going again.
6. Hurry up and wait
You spend a lot of time in the healthcare system waiting. Waiting for skin grafts to take, waiting for doctor’s rounds, waiting for the waiting room to open so you can wait. I’ve got very good at waiting in 2015 and it has made me a lot happier. If I have to wait for something, I just sit….and wait. Stillness is a skill you have to learn and when you can be still, you’ll be a lot happier and interact better with others.
7. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to trust them
When I had my first outpatient physio appointment I could see that they were a bit concerned about my injury. They had never dealt with something so serious and wanted to make sure they could treat me effectively. I was a little nervous but I was too physically and emotionally exhausted to go shopping around for physios. So I trusted them. The physio rang the surgeons and read lots of medical articles on my injury. He used me as a university teaching case study and trained the other physios in the practice. One morning he came in and proudly declared “congratulations, you aren’t our worst patient anymore!”. Because I had taken a chance on them, they now have other motor vehicle accident patients and their business is growing. I saw their eagerness to learn and genuine care for me and we both benefited from choosing to trust.
Thanks to all of my online and offline friends for your support in 2015. 2016 will be the best year yet -I’m believing that for me and I’m believing it for you to.