My Family Away from Home

My day job is my second family.  I am blessed and fortunate to work with those I deeply admire, respect, trust and am grateful to have in my life.  That together we do some pretty important work, and pretty well, is the icing on the cake that helps to fill my needs for purpose and contributing to the larger world.  My colleagues enhance my life, and so when I got to spend an entire day with them at a full-day staff meeting, I had a great time.

photo credit:
photo credit:

I also have the responsibility of leading this team, and while I do it imperfectly, they are fantastic at gently reminding me what they need to continue to feel an appreciated part of this interconnected web we call our second home.

I pass on the compliments I receive about them.  We all know that we will receive 5 complaints for every compliment.  Since the complaints need to be investigated it’s only fair that the compliments are held up, and publicly when it’s possible.  Best compliment that I was able to share about this great crew last week:

“It doesn’t matter who or when, the staff love what they do and love who they are working with.  You can see it every day.  They are passionate, always willing to answer questions, keep their sense of humor and stay energized.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Wow.  If someone said that about me, I’d sure want to hear it too.

Everyone is struggling and employment does not guarantee financial ease.  We all know this, but when it comes to doing the best we can for our employees, know they need every single bit we can offer.  Raises have been hard lately, yet with inflation that actually may mean employees are earning less.  They appreciate the best health care we can afford to offer, the pension contribution, even the YMCA Membership.  It all matters, and it is appreciated.

We don’t outgrow the need to know “why.”  As tired as I get by my 7-year-old’s (I thought he would outgrow) relentless “why”-stream; employees need to understand why.  If a certain policy helps keep a policy premium down so you can upgrade a health plan, say so.  If you can’t get to a needed infrastructure repair until the grant funds come in next month, explain.  Understanding makes it a lot easier to tolerate a new policy or to manage waiting for a need to be met.

Let yourself model being imperfect.  I came to this realization quite recently, but I think that being human and publicly owning my mistakes has actually helped our team trust each other more.  We rolled out a policy with some major mistakes, though several of us looked at it before I hit print.  I’ve made mistakes with partners that left them doubting me.  I’ve dropped the ball and forgotten to complete something I said I would do.  My mistakes when modelled allow them to make their own, without having to hide them or defend them.  In the end, we can create a culture of honesty, transparency, and ownership.

Take some time for small talk: because each of us comes to the table with a whole life, and we all burst share ourselves.

Huh, seems my home away from home is also helping me be a better mom at my home at home.  Don’t we all hope to cultivate all this for our families too.

I thank all my staff for teaching me how to be a better leader, and a better mom.  You enrich my life.

Please add other tips for those who lead us in the comments!


5 thoughts on “My Family Away from Home

  1. Sharlene I wish that every person who is in a management position would read this and follow your lead. You sound like an awesome boss. I love all of this but especially the modeling being imperfect and owning up to mistakes. I feel like so many leaders want to do everything they can to seem perfect and that makes it hard for the rest of us to feel like we measure up. Wonderful post. I just loved this.


  2. Sharlene … I’m sure you’re a great boss. This post is one of the reasons why I say that. I agree whole-heartedly on supporting coworkers, sharing compliments, and giving credit where it is due. I wish more people did this. In my opinion, it can very often be an incentive to keep up the good work.


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