Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

When Being There is All You Can Do

ARCHIVES

Like millions around the world, the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday has weighed heavily on my heart and mind these past few days. In all of the coverage and conversation, I’ve yet to hear anyone, myself included, come up with the words to explain how such a thing could happen or to fully console the families and friends of those who were lost.   In his remarks at a Sunday night vigil, President Obama eloquently remembered the victims, provided solace to the community and offered his thoughts on how and why the country should respond to the loss.

The President offered two examples for leaders on Sunday night.  First, he took the time and emotional strength to put into words what many of us wish we could have said.  He spoke on our behalf.  Second, he demonstrated what all leaders can do in times of tragedy even if words fail them.  He went to be with his people.

In times of tragedy, leaders need to be there. If, as the leader, you can come up with words of comfort so much the better, but in times of great tragedy you need to physically be with your people. They need to know that you’re with them. Seeing that can be more important than hearing that.

That was first brought home to me in late October of 1998, when I was the VP of HR for an interstate gas pipeline company. The day before Halloween, we learned that one of our area managers had lost three grandsons to a carbon monoxide leak as they slept in their home in Mississippi.  As we’ve been reminded so terribly this week, losing children is one of the hardest things to bear. When we heard the news, my boss arranged for the company plane to fly me, our senior operating executives and another HR exec to Mississippi for the funeral the next day.  I didn’t want to go.  I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to say or do.  Cathy, my boss, practically insisted though, that I make the trip.  Our delegation went to Mississippi on behalf of hundreds of others who couldn’t.  That was part of our job as leaders in the company.

It was the right call and was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done to be there with the family during the final visitation for those three boys and to be there at the graveside.  I have no recollection of what I said to them that day, only what it was like to look the grandparents in the eye and to offer my sorrow and an embrace.

There will be times, as a leader and as a human being, when words fail you. It’s at those times that being there for those in need is all you can do. It’s likely what matters most.

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.