Help Them See
I called her Mamaw. She was my dad’s mom–plump, kind, and a woman of faith. She loved to laugh and was a glorious cook.
Her health began to fail during the last few years of her life due primarily to diabetes and her having several strokes. The strokes caused her to lose the use of one side of her body. Her arm and hand were unable to do anything. Eventually, her diabetes progressed to where her legs had to be amputated.
My grandfather was unable to provide 24-hour care at home, so she was admitted to a nursing home in Winfield, Louisiana. Anytime we visited, we would spend significant chunks of time with her.
Stories would fill the air. Laughter would erupt. Mamaw would either be in her bed or sitting in a wheelchair. Being in this place and in that condition wore on her soul. Inevitably, it all came to a head one day–a truly pensive moment for her and my dad.
My grandmother asked my dad if she could leave the nursing home. She wanted to either go home and live with my grandfather or come home with us. My dad knew this was impossible with all of her health conditions. Even so, Dad was still her son. He loved his mom and didn’t want to tell her “No” without context.
He looked at her and said, “Mother, if you can go up and down the hallway of the nursing home in your wheelchair…we’ll talk.” Dad later confided in me that this was the hardest thing he had ever done.
Hopeful, my grandmother put her hands on the wheels of the chair and pushed. She went in circle after circle. It was that moment that my grandmother realized she was in the best hands at the nursing home. She cried…as did my dad.
So why did Dad do that when he already knew what the outcome would be? He knew my grandmother had to face her own condition. She had to be convinced by her own accord, not by the opinion of someone else.
While hard, what my dad did–making her face the reality of her situation–was both kind and loving. Had he allowed her to live in a dream of unattainable expectations, he would have only generated false hope.
In that moment they both had to embrace her condition. My dad and grandfather could now begin planning routine visits to see her. This in turn helped her see how life could be lived in the nursing home.
All of this was very hard. It took all the fortitude my dad could muster, but it was the right thing to do. That’s leadership.
As a leader, you must operate from a place of reality and not from a place of false hope. Clarity provides a way forward. It puts everyone on the same page and allows the best future to come forth.
Be like Dad…help them see their reality. Your team can only improve when they know what is true…and what isn’t.
You may think it is unkind or even unchristian, but the reality is that it is always best to deal in truth. It may sting for the moment, but in the long run things will be better.
Do that and you’ll be on the path to leadership endurance.
Brian Sanders serves as Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio. He regularly writes and speaks on leadership topics. His new book, “Leadership Endurance,” can be purchased HERE.