Making “A’s” Without an “A” Game

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Each of us faces days where we just don’t “have it.”

When that occurs how do you compensate?

I posed this question to an executive client recently. A bright young man, he was sharing with me his philosophies for communicating with not only fellow staff, but customers as well. Impressively articulate during our conversation, verbiage seemed to flow effortlessly from his tongue. He had a remarkable gift for dazzling people with linguistic mastery. His response to me about compensating for his “off” days was simple: “I focus on listening well.”

I considered his answer in the context of not just work, but finances, health, and relationships as well, The Big Tripod, as I call it.

Money. Almost everyone has faced, will face, or is now dealing with financial challenges. At just about the time there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, another surprise comes in the mail. How do you react?  Developing a budget, following a careful tracking of current expenditures is a start. Begin collecting receipts of payments, bills, and expenses over the next 30 days to determine outflows and evaluate that vs. inflows. Contact a financial advisor and ask for assistance in developing a workable plan.

Health.  Too often we take it for granted. During those times that we feel just a little bit off, maybe it’s a good chance for one of your best employees to make the presentation in your stead. If you’re really under the weather, be considerate of others. Stay home. For many work these days can be conducted remotely. More serious health issues requiring extended periods of incapacitation requires allowing others to step up. In the late 19thcentury Civil Engineer John Roebling became disabled at a project site. For the next 13 years he was unable to visit it due to his condition. That assignment was nonetheless completed through communications with his nurse, companion, confidant, and…wife, Emily.

Today we can still enjoy the Brooklyn Bridge. Not only do we still marvel at that edifice, but perhaps more so at the marriage of the Roeblings.

Relationships. Like a ship at sea there are ebbs and flows. Sometimes the waters are calm, weather delightful, sailor morale high. Other days are fussy, off kilter, maybe downright nasty. We all go through these periods. Wisdom can be gleaned from the advice of my young executive—focus on listening well. The late Leadership Guru, Stephen Covey’s third tenet of highly effective leaders, “seek first to understand…” is not a bad “go to.”

When your “game” is off, inspiration comes from leaders, athletes, and members of the clergy who rose to the occasion in spite of afflictions, illnesses, and hardships. Franklin Roosevelt was stricken by polio prior to being elected President. As an example to a nation then in the throes of economic depression he reached back for his greatest mental and physical strength, dragging his broken body to appearances to rally the populace.

During the 1997 NBA Finals, a flu-stricken, dehydrated, and exhausted Michael Jordan scored 38 points against the Utah Jazz, almost singlehandedly willing the Chicago Bulls to a critical win in the championship series.

Pastor Peter Marshall grew up in Scotland and came to America for seminary. Here he met his wife Catherine, who was soon felled by tuberculosis.  Eventually, she recovered, however, caring for her, their small son, and a growing pastorate eventually took a toll on his own health. Still his spiritual path took him to the honorable position of chaplain of the US Senate. Prior to his passing of heart disease at the age of 47, Marshall remarked, “The measure of life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”

Making “A’s” Without an “A” Game

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