A Link in the Chain

A Link in the Chain

Editor's note: Andrew Grimm is a contributing columnist at GreatNews.Life.

True north in leadership can be a fuzzy thing at times. You have the organization’s goals, the goals of your staff, your departments, other departments, and a lot of passionate people wanting to do good but not always agreeing on how that’s done.

Sometimes you have your own goals too.

It’s fun but challenging.

I navigate it all by trying to always help people and to put the needs of others ahead. Sometimes circumstances can make this difficult. There have definitely been times I’ve lost that true north, but I always reinvest in my inner compass to find my way. 

What’s important is to try.

Many years ago, I was certain I wanted to be a database analyst. A job was posted in the IT department where I worked and, to me, it was my dream job. I applied. I studied potential interview questions. I worked hard to prove I deserved that job. I organized my accomplishments so I could showcase my potential and one day the interview came.  

My boss at the time thought he saw something different in me and convinced me not to go through with that path. I was asked to trust him, and I did, but I wasn’t terribly happy at the time because it meant that I didn't meet that goal I had set for myself. Years later, he would retire and leave me to take his place. He saw something in my I hadn’t seen in myself. He saw a leader. 

To this day I can’t thank him enough for paying it forward and growing me in a different direction. I really wouldn’t have enjoyed that job and, quite honestly, I didn’t even realize it at the time.

This leader of mine never did that because he’d get anything out of it; he did it because it was the right thing to do.  

To him, that is the definition of leadership – to grow others.

The only way I’ve been able to truly thank him is to embrace that ideal. After all, I'm only a link in the chain. So, in the organizations I’ve been privileged enough to lead within, I celebrate when someone moves up or when someone moves on or even if someone moves out. I work hard to never break relationships and, when people come for career advice, I give them the advice that I believe is right for them because it’s the right thing to do.

A lot of effort goes into giving everyone an opportunity to grow. Of course, it’s up to people to take that challenge on – but that’s a whole other conversation. 

Paying it forward will help you in work and it’ll help you in life.

Someone I helped some time ago reciprocated by helping a family member rebuild her professional life after moving a great distance. I mentioned the need and they volunteered to help immediately. That relationship has gone on like that, between us, for years and it’s sure to continue for years to come. I'm sure to help him again, he's sure to help me again. Those relationships are great when you find them. Make sure you never take advantage.

That's not always the way it works though. The people you help in life may not help in return. That's fine, they shouldn't have to - don't fall into the temptation of judging others if they don't reciprocate. Ego can kill a good relationship. Let go of that kind of thinking. You are a link in a chain. You help to grow others. You help to facilitate growth. It's their job to help grow someone else or to facilitate getting something else done. The chain doesn't always link back directly, but it usually does link back eventually.  

Case in point: imagine creating a culture in your organization or business where everyone grows someone else. Wouldn't that make everyone wealthy in ways that exceed a paycheck? Great cultures are hard to find. Ask anyone working in a bad one or who has left a great one for a larger paycheck - they'll tell you that no dollar amount makes it OK. 

It's more meaningful to be seen as the leader who grows other leaders than as the lone wolf who always has the answer. That’s a very old, traditional model – to expect the leader to know it all. That’s not how a great team works and any leader can tell you, it’s better when everyone is together.

So, treat the people around you with dignity and give them opportunity.  Offer help again and again, even if it gets turned down repeatedly. Don’t stop believing, don’t be the link that breaks the chain, and keep investing in relationships.

If someone isn't a team player, they'll out themselves naturally. Don't get involved. Instead, give people the opportunity to change their mind and stay open to the possibilities. 

Be known as the leader that makes the organization stronger. Someone grew my mentor before he invested in me. This concept didn't start with him or with me, and if you adopt this idea then it won't end with you.

You are a link in the chain.

Andrew Grimm holds a master's degree in healthcare administration and a bachelor's in science for IT management. He’s worked in healthcare for over 20 years and he’s been in leadership positions for well over a decade. Andrew’s early experiences with leadership include being a team leader in a fast-food franchise and a leadership position as an intern for Walt Disney World. He’s presently a vice president for a health system in Northern Indiana. Andrew is a La Porte native, where he lives still with his wife and two children. He has several hobbies including gardening and various attempts at woodworking and remodeling.