As I continue my reboot series, I wanted to revisit a post about delegating and asking for help. I think sometimes we forget that we don't have to do it all. Somewhere along the way, we started believing that we needed to carry the world's weight on our shoulders. There is no badge of honor in being stressed out, short on time, overwhelmed, and overcapacity. Yet, it's all too common for people, especially women, to think having it all means doing it all yourself. So this week, I want to revisit a post about superheroes. Let's jump in. Maybe I'll carve out my signature happy bulleted list.
Recently a close friend of mine experienced a significant loss. I wanted to take the time and support them and their family in any way I could. Watching them deal with this situation took my mind back when I had to deal with a similar loss. I remember the moment I learned about my problem. I remember a million thoughts swirling in my mind. Could I have done or not done something? How quickly could I get to the side of the loved one facing the crisis, travel arrangements, work, etc.? I remember my emotions. I also remember how I dreaded calling my office to say that I'd be taking some time away. Dreaded because I didn't have a plan for the work I was leaving behind. Thankfully, there were no issues, and I could take the time I needed for my family and me.
But there was another issue that should not have been an issue at all. There was no one on my team to carry my projects. So my team moved forward with what they could. But several other tasks and deliverables that I would have stayed on top of had I been available were late. Really late. Unfortunately, they piled up and were waiting for me when I got back to work. The stressful part was less about leaving and more about getting caught up when I got back to work. I could tell you that I counted to 10 and breathed, or that it didn't make me anxious and that I held it together, but I would be lying to you. The workload just burned my brain. I was pissed that I had to leave for the reasons I had to go and pissed that we didn't have the resources to fill in for me. I was pissed that my team was stretched too thin and barely keeping up, just pissed. While my manager was understanding, her manager was not. It meant logging in early and working late to right-side the ship. Yes, I was able to do it. The cost, however, was a lot of stress, lack of sleep, and irritability. This pace didn't work for me. So, being the me that I am, I needed to figure out how to avoid this scenario again. Two things ultimately stuck out to me..two things that I should have done to honor myself:
Ask for help - I didn't consider my team. I knew they had a good deal of work for themselves, so I never bothered them. Not sure if I was playing the martyr or something in my mind, but I didn't think that they would make room on their plates to pick up some of my slack. I was wrong. My lead developer let me know that the team anticipated I would need them, and they were waiting for me to give them instructions. I'm sure I told them "I got it" when they extended a hand in some women's-lib moment, foolish me. I took asking for help as a sign of weakness. I wanted my team to know that I wouldn't let anything slip through the cracks regardless of my personal dilemmas. Work wouldn't slip. But my well-being and peace of mind. That was a different story. I only needed to ask for the help that was waiting for me. I missed that opportunity.
Set expectations - When I returned to work, and my manager said what the portfolio needed and when it was due, my response wasn't clear about what I could deliver. I allowed my manager to think that I would get everything done by a certain due date. In part, because I didn't want to come off as someone who not only needed time off but couldn't come back to work and get back to work..immediately. The truth is...I couldn't. I wasn't focused and could have used a plan to get back on track. It was my responsibility to set clear expectations around what I was able to deliver. I didn't do that. I failed myself and paid the price.
BONUS: Take what you need - I should have taken more time before I went back to work. Again, I didn't want to be seen as someone who couldn't handle my work and responsibilities. I was on a "fast track" and I needed to keep up with my own momentum. I deserved the time to take to recover. I had earned it and should have taken it. I didn't because, at the time, success looked like overworked and not hard work.
Part of being successful is being honest. Lying is as much what you embellish as it is what you don't include. It was dumb for me NOT to say that I wouldn't be able to do everything in such a short time frame. It was immature and irresponsible not to engage my team to pitch in. In hindsight, prioritizing those tasks and re-prioritizing our current workload would have been a more efficient way to plow through. Devising a plan to conquer the mountain of work vs. working like an ox would have been smarter and a more health-conscious approach. The lesson learned for me was huge. Initially, when I wrote this post, I thought having a plan was the lesson learned. But now, I recognize I wasn't in the frame of mind to devise a plan. I should have trusted my team and accepted their help. I selfishly didn't allow myself to receive their assistance. I thought being superwoman was me managing. The truth is, being superwoman was me crumbling under pressure. Every superhero has a sidekick. Find yours..and let them do what they do.
These are absolutely my thoughts...