When I walked into my department a year ago, I scanned all of the employees. There were some superstars. Others were solid employees. Some needed a little bit of hand holding to reach the next level. There she was. She was the same age as me. This was a second career for her. She was unpolished. Her skills needed improvement. What I saw in her eyes was desire. It was burning bright. “If someone would just help me, I know I could be a better nurse.”
When I started in this role I wondered what I could accomplish. I knew little about the corporate world. I did know a lot about nursing. My team consisted of licensed practical nurses (LPNs). What could I contribute to this team? It took me a split second to decide my focus would be building nursing skills. My goal was to make every team member confident in their skills. I wanted to teach them to effectively communicate with doctors. Most importantly, I wanted to teach them to be patient advocates.
This employee grew throughout the year. She was building skills. She was excited. She wanted more. My goal was to help her grow. I gave encouragement. I mentored her. I cheered for her. Throughout the year her performance grew. She was trending in the right direction. I was proud.
The flame was gone. Her performance was down. She had repeated call ins. Today was the day that I had to tell her that her job was was on the line. Why do I feel like a mom telling my child that she needs to shape up. I am surprised how my heart has grown as I have learned to love my team. I prayed for guidance.
Somewhere I found the words. “You know I care about you.” She acknowledged my comment. Tears shone bright in her eyes. “It hurts me to tell you your job is in serious jeopardy. I need to do what is right for the team and the company.” She stared at me without blinking. Tears fell down her cheeks. My heart was aching. Yes, she is having problems at home. Her daughter is having a hard time at school. As a manager I need to do the right thing. Please get help, I pleaded. Perhaps take an approved lead. I gave her resources for the next step.
Throughout the day I checked on her. “You know you can do this,” I said. Later she came in my office. “I thought you were going to fire me today, ” she said. “The only reason I am still here trying is because I know you care.” I smiled at her.
Regardless of what happens over the next day, week or year, I know I made a difference. I put myself out there and showed her that I cared. I can’t make someone believe in themselves, but I can show that I believe. Perhaps they can hold onto my belief even when they can’t find it within themselves.
I am more committed than ever to help everyone on my team grow. I will teach them to ask questions. I will show them how to be patient advocates. I will help them build self confidence. This is how I can make a difference.
What will you do today that will make a difference in someone’s life? Never discount the role that you have as a leader. You are shaping lives of tomorrow’s leaders. Be the difference maker.