Update – As mentioned before, my co-writer, Emma, is in Thailand doing service work at a women’s shelter. The next few posts will be her experiences applied to your worksite.
This past week at the shelter I was assigned to oversee a project of moving a massive pile of dirt. It was around mid-day, the sun was beating down and at 90 degrees and 110% humidity, the tropical weather was intense. Add a huge pile of soil to be moved from one side of the farm to the other, and it was soon a hot, very long task. However, four of the women came to help me and pretty soon we were making headway. As the leader of the project, simple as it was, I found myself excited by the great time we were making and was motivated to work as hard as I could to get it done quicker. In the process however, I noticed one of the women who walked with a limp due to bowed out legs, struggling to keep up. I followed her with my own wheelbarrow and realized that I’d been loading it too heavy and she was unable to lift the load to dump it. I further realized that without the assistance of someone else, the task was nearly impossible for her.
My first reaction was to mentally justify me just going back to shoveling, since I was the fastest worker and therefore I would compensate for her being behind by working faster. Fortunately, I got over my initial justification, and realized in one mental sentence, “It’s not about the pile of dirt, Emma.”
The rest of the time consisted of me partnering up with this young woman, a single mother of one, and going back and forth with her, shoveling and lifting.
As is any form of service in leadership, it does more for you than it ever does to the person you’re serving.
The pile of dirt didn’t get moved under my watch, it was finished the next day.
But I realized that I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, of piles of dirt in my life that I put before people that needed help. I found it ironic that it was a pile of dirt that was being moved, since any task that we put over the emotional and mental well-being of someone on our team, might as well be a pile of dirt.
Challenge: what was the pile of dirt in your day today? What person could have been prioritized over a project to be done?
You might be tempted to justify your “important task”. Frankly, in the medical field, there are few tasks that aren’t vital. Most everything you do is essential.
The point I’m trying to make, is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to let someone know they matter. It doesn’t take a lot of time to give an encouraging word. It doesn’t take a lot of time to go on one round to help someone empty their load.
Good luck this week!