Last week I was told of the death of a friend and colleague with whom I’d worked quite closely in my previous role. I saw her perhaps every couple of months for about seven years and we worked on a common agenda – she locally, me nationally. She was 50 and had suffered a very short illness. I can only imagine what her family and close friends have been – are – going through because, even as a relatively remote colleague, I was devastated. I was also surprised by the amount of sadness I felt and have been trying to reflect on why.
My conclusion is that I don’t think I ever really told her what I thought about her. I think I did, indirectly, in the way I encouraged her to pursue further education and apply for jobs. But I didn’t tell her about the impact she made on me and other people. She was hard-working and passionate about her job and our shared agenda. She was kind and she was fun. She was thoughtful about those she was working with and always, always reminded me ‘it’s just work’ when something didn’t go my way or she thought I was worrying too much. I sat in many a meeting with her when I’d catch her eye and a giggle would start to erupt, which would put everything back into perspective. She was, as they say, a positive life force.
I am not writing this as a sort of obituary, but as a reminder to myself and to you, to make sure you tell people about the impact and the positive difference they make.
I am always struck by how we reserve this sort of thing for the big occasions – usually when someone is about to retire or leave – and forget how important it is to say thank you during our daily working lives.
Leaving a job, whether through promotion, retirement or redundancy can feel a lot like a bereavement of sorts, for the person going and for those left behind, which is why it is important to mark the occasion. This is not dissimilar to one of the functions of a funeral when someone dies, after all. But let’s not wait for those big occasions to show our appreciation.
When time is short, it is not only easy to forget to make mention of something that someone has done or said, but it is so easy to not even notice. Even geography can make it difficult, if you’re not accessible to your team or other colleagues, you will have limited opportunity unless in a formal meeting or other specified occasion. Can you do anything about that so there is more opportunity to notice?
I am not suggesting we gush with praise on every possible occasion – we can all spot a fake. I am talking about authentic thanks that is meaningful and heartfelt.
I am also talking about the little things rather than big achievements, such as a project delivered on time, success against all odds with a patient or waiting time reduction. We all know that it is the little things that make the greatest difference and have the most significant impact. Ask any patient on a ward, or their families.
I have noticed that it is often the time taken to respond in a small way that has most impact on the person – actually seeking them out to say thank you, or give a card or a cake – rather than big speeches in public.
So, having read this, think over your last week at work and who you are going to thank. And tell me about it, as I would really like to hear.
It is only fitting for me to finish this In Person with my own thanks to the editor of Frontline, Lynn Eaton, who has edited this column for four and half years. I hope I haven’t waited until her departure to a wonderful new job to say thank you, but I do want to say publicly how much I have valued her ability to let me just write and say what I want, but also to tweak the column to make it even better.
Her counsel has been invaluable. Thank you.
Karen Middleton Chief Executive Officer CSP