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How to Deal with those Human Moments

Group of people smiling at the camera

A question was recently submitted from a newsletter reader that asked:

“How do you deal with those in-between days? You know, those days where you can’t just knock it out of the park?”

This question was very fitting for the week my team experienced. Because there is a lot of life happening outside of work at the moment. Some very good and exciting, and others are heartbreaking and difficult. And because we are humans, we haven’t had a ‘knock it out of the park’ week at work.

Our value in the working world is tightly intertwined into our performance and productivity. We find our value in not just meeting expectations, but exceeding them. Profitability hinges on this. Development opportunities count on our high performances. But we aren’t robots. Life happens. And so there are days where we can’t meet or exceed expectations. Giving it our best for the day might mean just being able to show up at work. As leaders and managers, we have to recognize that there will be these in-between days. There will be moments where our team member can’t perform at the level that we want them to be at. And we have to extend grace to them.

You may have noticed in the photo from above that I am absent. While my team celebrated Galentine’s Day last night, I was headed out of town to a funeral. My cousin passed away last week from a rare and incurable brain cancer. After hearing the news, I knew I had a load of work to do and tried desperately to push through and deliver on my workload. But I just couldn’t. I had to be OK that life was happening and that I couldn’t show up for work in that moment.

My team member, Teresa, shared with our team that it was the ten year anniversary of her father passing away. She shared beautiful stories and memories of him. Of course her mind and heart were heavy on those memories.

My other team member, Rachel, shared that she was really struggling to work this week after it hit her that the year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis was looming. Suddenly she connected why she hadn’t been able to concentrate and perform at her best.

And we also threw Kristin into the mix, who is pregnant and in the process of preparing for parenthood for the first time. This is a very exciting time in her life, but this naturally takes up a corner of her mind.

I had a choice as a leader to extend grace to myself and to my team members as we dealt with the beautiful and messy intricacies of life. Maybe the goal isn’t about how we hit it out of the park everyday. Maybe it’s about how we do the best with what we have. Hopefully, more days than not it’s about making the impact we want to have, but other days it’s just about making it through. And this, my friends, means that we have to remember to extend grace to others.

It’s quite easy to ask for grace ourselves, but I think it’s often difficult to give grace. And in these moments, extending grace is how we help our team members make it through. People that we work with and support are having a very human experience. And that means having incredible highs and devastating lows.

Yes, there is the question of, “But what if my team member continuously shows up this way?” And that is when conversations have to be held around needing accommodations, FMLA, or if this is the right position for them. But I challenge you to remember that there is no ‘right’ amount of time to grieve or to feel or to be a new parent. These experiences, the human experiences, are not linear or tied up in a neat bow. They ebb and flow and can be triggered in a split second. We have to remember that life will not accommodate for work. But we can accommodate work around life.

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