Reyer: Managing work and a family medical issue

  • Article by: LIZ REYER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Q: I work full time managing a busy team, and also have a family medical issue that will require attention for some time. What can I do to successfully keep all of this going?

A: Be clear about priorities and rely on your team to get through this challenging time.

The inner game

This situation is a clear recipe for stress, so start by equipping yourself to keep that aspect under control. If you don’t currently have some brief periods of downtime built into your day, start now, taking the next five minutes to get centered. You may want to sit quietly or go for a walk — whichever is most grounding for you. Now focus on your breathing, noticing the air flowing in through your nostrils and out through your mouth, letting tension and anxiety ease with each breath. Repeat this now and then throughout your day … just the couple of minutes invested will have great returns in helping you maintain balance.

What are your expectations for yourself? Superwoman? Realistically, when you add a new layer of effort to your life, something else will have to shift. And don’t let it be your self-care, because then it’ll all fall apart and nothing will be done well. You need to be clear about what needs to get done, what’s nice to have, and what can get delegated.

Get a handle on the to-do list, being very concrete and specific. “Take care of Aunt Annie” is much harder to plan for than “Take Uncle Fred to the doctor on Tuesday.” If cataloging your responsibilities starts to overwhelm you, return to your breathing for a moment. And be sure to include both work and home on your list.

Consider the resources available to help. Who are your partners on the homefront; for example, your spouse or siblings? Who are the rocks on your team? Where does your boss fit in terms of providing help as needed?

The outer game

Realistically, you’re going to need extra help. And turning to your team can also yield returns in terms of staff development but also cohesion as a group. Have a meeting with them and let them know what’s going on for you, with an appropriate level of detail, of course. Talk about aspects your need to delegate more, and don’t worry if you don’t have a specific plan; this provides an opportunity to see who steps up for a larger role.

Then work with your team and your boss on exactly who will do what so that expectations are clear and your team is set up for success.

Very importantly, also be clear about the parts of your role that you can’t or won’t delegate — being there to support each of your team members. If they know that your heart and mind are still with them, the work will get done.

Take care of yourself, keeping the basics of nutrition, rest, exercise and fun all in place. The little things — a good laugh, for example — will help you keep it together.

The last word

Asking for and accepting help will make it possible for you to keep everything going during a busy and high-stress time.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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