You Gotta Gitcha Some Help to Lead and Run Well

Week 9

Week 8 Mileage: 43 miles

Long Run Distance:  20 miles

I distinctly remember a friend crying after I told her I was leaving the job and company we both worked for and moving back home.  I was in my mid-twenties, and an opportunity for my husband had landed us back in our hometown.   I’ll be honest, I was hesitant about moving back home then, thinking we probably needed to explore a little bit more of the world before returning to our roots.

But my friend’s tears told me otherwise.  She wasn’t crying because she was sad to see me go.  She was crying because she wished she had the opportunity to be closer to family.  “When you have kids, you’ll be so thankful you have family and a support system close by,” she said between tears.  You see, she had two little ones (about the ages mine are now) and her parents lived in Canada and her in-laws lived in South Carolina.  She was over eight hours away from any immediate family.

I get her tears now.

And those tears came back to me this week.  In soliciting some feedback from a current colleague, I got this response “How do you work full-time, spend valuable time with your family, remain active in church, volunteer AND train for a marathon?!”  (I have this feedback in writing so I’m not adding the emphasis; this is how she put it.)

I felt guilty. And all I could say was, I have help.  Lots of it.

My kids can walk across the alley or ride a bike down the road to sets of healthy, loving grandparents.   I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve actually had to hire a babysitter.   How do we run long runs with young kids?  Grandparents is how.

My husband is like the saint of supportiveness.

I have this fabulous girl who does anything and everything for me and the business- running errands, spending the night to keep kids so me and my husband can run together early in the morning before anyone else wakes up, and simply doing things like taking out the trash when it needs to be done without being asked. (Yes, B, as you post this blog post for me today, just know that I noticed that you had taken out the trash the other day.  Thank you.)

Someone else cleans my house.  Someone else does the company bookkeeping, someone else does all of my social media posting and marketing strategy and someone else runs our career line of business like a champ.

I can seemingly do it all because I actually don’t do it all.  I have a support system and the means with which to afford and pay for some of that support.

In thinking about this, I recall the criticism that Sheryl Sandberg (This one is one of my favorites: “Recline, Don’t ‘Lean In’ (Why I Hate Sheryl Sandberg)”) got from some after writing Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.  

“Yea,” working moms said,  “you can lean in to your career because you can pay people to do everything else.”  The resentment from others who didn’t and couldn’t live like she lives conjured up a big ole ball of hate for the woman who seemed to have it all.  And then her husband died, and a large portion of the support she had through a loving marriage to lean in was gone in an instant.

And in reading this article about her loss, I realized that Sandberg may have actually been telling us to lean in to each other as much, if not more than, leaning in to our careers.

Dear leader, you may not have the opportunity to live close to family and you may not have the means with which to hire a maid or an assistant.  I too often neglect to realize how unbelievably fortunate I am, although I am nowhere near the means of Sandberg, to have a list of luxuries in my life.   But, when I stop and think about it, one of the most powerful gifts we have as humans, and the one in which leaders should be able to seize above the rest, is opportunity to build relationships.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with trying to do it all, well then don’t. Find a support system that can help you achieve what you want to achieve.  And, by all means, say no when that “all” isn’t, in fact, something that you even want.

I know most people’s access to support is different than my access, but if you’re struggling, start your own lean in circle.  Outside of my family,  those I run with and a small group of close girlfriends are this for me, and none of them cost a dime. Sandberg’s support in her lean in circle doesn’t either.

We all need someone to lean on, and maybe sometimes that starts by being the person in which someone else can lean.

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Want to be the next COO of Facebook?  Surround yourself with great people.

Do We Really Want to Have it All?

Mary Ila Ward

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