Your Weekly Perspective Check

Posted 01.18.2016

Last year, I spent some time talking with the colleagues for a new senior executive I was coaching. The point of the conversations was to incorporate their perspective into the coaching agenda for my client.

The good news was that he appeared to be off to a strong start in his new role. Like a lot of new senior leaders, he was all in on doing a great job. That was appreciated by all but some of his colleagues shared a concern that he not go so all in that his health and other priorities in his life suffered. They cared about this guy personally and believed he would be more effective professionally if he kept his perspective.

One of his direct reports shared a personal story with me that illustrated his point about the importance of regular perspective checks. A few months earlier, he had accompanied his girlfriend to the emergency room when she had stomach pains. (It turned out to be appendicitis and she got the care she needed.) While they were waiting for the doctor to arrive at the examining room, the executive caught a glimpse of an empty room across the hall. As he described it, the bed in the room was “surrounded by every kind of diagnostic device, instrument cabinet and IV stand there is.” He started thinking, “Wow, I’m so glad we’re not in there trying to keep her alive.” He was so moved by that thought that he took a picture of what turned out to be the hospital’s shock trauma room. He keeps a copy of the picture (which accompanies this post) close by to remind himself that most any daily problem he has is inconsequential compared to what goes on in the shock trauma room.

A few weeks after he took the picture, he was out for the evening with a friend of his who’s a doctor. They both had had tough days and were commiserating about them. The executive told me that he was venting about whatever had happened at work that day. His doctor friend listened and then quietly replied, “Yeah, I lost a couple of patients today.”

With great thanks to the people who are, most of us are not in jobs in which life or death literally hangs in the balance. When things start to get nutty and stressful this week, as they almost always do, consider that you’re not in the shock trauma room. Yeah, maybe things are difficult but if you pull the lens back and look at the whole picture, there are likely a lot of things going right (often, even in the shock trauma room) that you can build on. Be grateful for those things and go on and have a great week.