Replace Me

I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a song that struck my attention. I’m not sure why, it was your typical country song talking about loss in a relationship. Perhaps it was the upbeat forewarning of the loss that struck me. It is a “feel good” song telling the next guy all of the quirks his wife has just in case he is replaced. Like most things do, because I’m a little self-centered like many of us are, it got me thinking about how it applied to me.

Where could I be replaced?

I started thinking about it in terms of my personal relationships. What advice could I give to someone who was replacing me? What if I died tomorrow, how would someone take my place as a friend, sister, daughter, wife, and mother? Are these even all the roles that I play? What about being an aunt, cousin, granddaughter, or daughter-in-law? Ok well that got out of hand fast. There is a lot of pressure if I need to go down that rabbit hole. Lets just focus on the relationships that are close and I could be replaced in. For me, that is probably friend, sister, wife, and mother. While I love my parents and we have a strong relationship, I do not think that there would ever be a situation where a parent would look to replace a child relationship in their lives especially now that I’m an adult.

For you it might look different. Who are the people that you are especially connected with that would, to some extent, need to replace you if you were gone? Maybe it’s a specific cousin, or a pet even. Your sweet puppy will need someone to look after him if you weren’t around. (Of note, yes I do understand this all sounds very morbid but stick with me I’m going somewhere.)

What would I tell the next person?

Think about this, if someone is replacing me as a, lets use wife, what would I want them to know? What are the things that I’ve learned from living with, and loving on, my husband that I would want to make sure someone applies if I were ever replaced? He loves maple syrup on and in everything; the shoes by the door being out of alignment will make him lose his ever-loving-mind; you’re going to watch hunting videos, don’t bother telling him you don’t like them, they will be on; productivity is the way to this man’s heart. These aren’t big things or all of the things. I don’t need to tell you everything you would learn about him on a first date but what you learn over time that allows you to navigate life easier. I’ve started thinking about this with each of the roles.

She’s not skipping the ice cream to be skinny, it hurts her stomach, so don’t make jokes.
Make sure she’s kind to herself.
She doesn’t know she’s talking as loud as she is.
He wants you to be right near him, but he doesn’t want you to hold on to him.
That other one, needs ALL the snuggles.
All will be right in the world if you take them outside with your snow pants on.

Often, we think about how tomorrow isn’t promised in terms of making the most of today for ourselves. Sometimes we think about it in terms of mending broken relationships or loving on the people you’re with. I would challenge you to think of this concept as well. Considering this as almost, relationship life insurance; how would we want another person to best take care of the ones we would leave behind?

Once you’ve identified the who, and determined what someone would need to know, apply it to how you act with those people today. I know how much my kids love it when I play outside with my snow pants on (for those of you who don’t understand this one, it demonstrates at least a willingness to go in the deep snow and play rather than just supervising.) so I can commit to doing that more regularly, my husband really does like syrup on everything from eggs to ham to shish kebabs. So, when I plan meals this weekend, I can choose a couple of those recipes. If I know my sister (also my friend) has 0 volume awareness for their voice, I can probably extend some grace there.

Isn’t this a leadership blog?

Back to when I heard the song. I immediately thought of my personal relationships and a couple of those people on my team popped into my head. What would I tell their new manager should one come into my place? (A much less morbid version of replacement.) I mean obviously I would relay all of the technical information if given the chance. This is each person’s schedule and what their focus is but that’s the “first date” type of stuff. What would be beneficial in making the world go-round and speed up the time from integration to true performance for them?

He would work 100 hours per week. Practice working efficiently rather than longer.
She doesn’t care what you did last weekend, just move on.
He needs your approval so be careful how you phrase feedback.
She wants to do a good job but is so burnt out she can’t manage to get above the minimum.
He will think every idea is great, maybe run it past another person or two for thoughts.

Fast forward a bit, one was considering a new opportunity at the time and I thought, what would I tell her new boss? This would be a perfect time to apply this! Sadly, I couldn’t think of much to say. I mean, I had a few notes and I did share them but I felt as though I should know more. I couldn’t tell them out to get her best out of her. I couldn’t tell them what would really make her tick. What type of work would energize her and how she needed her feedback delivered? I take pride in knowing my team and flexing to what they need but I couldn’t explain it.

A couple of things I’m reminding myself of.

If you can’t explain it simply you don’t know it well enough. I would love to take credit for that poetry but that one is Einstein. Because the thing is, simply taking pride in my knowledge of each member of my team isn’t actually knowing them. If I can’t explain it to someone else, I clearly don’t know it well enough myself. So, pay attention to your team, your family, everyone that you identified as being important to you. People are always telling you what they need and how they need it. Do you know how long it took me to learn the snow pants thing? Too long. They would ask me to wear them and I would just brush it off as there was no difference. There is, and they knew that. Same is true for a team. I tried for about a year to get All Business Betty to share more. I was determined to crack the shell! There was no reason for that. She doesn’t want to, and to be honest, I am not the person who really cares to ask. I had read about the importance of showing interest in each person’s life so I thought I should drive it out of her. Good plan right?

Apply what you’ve learned. Most of what I’ve expressed in this post has been theoretical. If I was hit by a fish truck, I would not have the opportunity to share anything I knew about my family, friends, and co-workers. Truly if I took a new opportunity and a new manager stepped into my role, odds are they wouldn’t get this intel either. So there is no purpose in gathering it unless I’m going to apply it. Figure out what your circle, personal and professional, needs from you and as much as you’re able, give it to them. I promise, putting on your snow pants won’t take any more time than supervising but it will make all the difference in their enjoyment, and yours.

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