In Appreciation, Humility, Leadership, Teamwork, Wednesday Wisdom

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, so I am extending the sentiment of gratitude just a bit longer.

I suppose I’m just like everyone else in terms of my ability to remember (or completely forget!) certain meaningful calendar dates. The upcoming birthday of a family member reminded me of the unique circumstances surrounding one of my most positive and memorable experiences with coworkers.

Several years ago, the company I worked for was planning for a significant event that was due to culminate right after the Thanksgiving holiday. It was already an extremely busy time of year with the normal Human Resources administrative tasks during the fourth quarter: benefit enrollments, new policies, hiring, budgets, etc. Throw a long holiday weekend in the mix, and the volume of things that needed to happen in a very short timeframe created high stress levels for a large portion of the management team.

To ensure the organization’s event was executed as planned, I was responsible for a significant administrative portion of the process (Read: get all of the paperwork ready that *may be* needed for a couple of different scenarios). It wasn’t glamorous by any means, and we operated pretty lean, so there was no option for delegation.

I did what I could during normal business hours, but in reality, the best time to get the ‘paper’ part done was when fewer people were around, so for the weeks leading up to the event, I squeezed in a few extra hours each day where I could.

The week of the event arrived. Since I knew I wasn’t going to be in town for my family member’s actual birthday, I made plans to celebrate the night before. Problem was, the night before arrived and the paperwork still wasn’t ready. Since I couldn’t change birthday plans, and I couldn’t change company plans, I just resigned myself that it was going to be a long night. It was crunch time, and I’d do my part to ensure we were ready. This was a significant event and the workload of this timeframe was an anomaly, so it was easy to put my head down and attempt to plow through.

Right before I took a break to go to dinner, two of my co-workers arrived. I’m going to call them ‘friends’ at this point. My friends showed up, unrequested, and took over the “line” I had set up for the time I was away.

Because both are very modest, I know these two thought very little of this “above and beyond” contribution. They were just doing their part to help out. But I guarantee you, it was it was no small gesture and it was extremely meaningful to me. Each year since the event, I take a moment during this week to express my gratitude; I am blessed to have had them as coworkers.

There are a couple of elements to this situation that I want to highlight:

▪        By title/hierarchy/workload, they were under no obligation to help; they saw a need and pitched in.

▪        I didn’t have to ask; they knew what needed to be done and just showed up. This meant that I could leave and work would still be done (and their contribution limited the amount of time I was going to have to put in later that night).

▪        It helped the organization – not just me, not just the team, but the entire organization – put its best foot forward in terms of rolling out this event.

It took an extraordinary set of circumstances to allow them to demonstrate this behavior, but I know it’s in their nature to always be that helpful. I assure you, it’s a gesture I’ll never forget. The unselfishness of these colleagues is an example I want to emulate. What team isn’t better when they have humble and hard-working members like this on it?

Leaders, have you demonstrated this level of unselfishness in your organization?

Do you recognize (and acknowledge) it when you see it?

Team members, have you exhibited this level of unselfishness?




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