Color & Control:

Lead Follow or Get Out of The Way…

Laurence J. Peter’s advice to “Lead, follow or get out of the way” was at the top of my mind in the aftermath of a charitable fundraiser that I recently ran.

As might be expected, some people stepped up and were a pleasure to work with, while others… I’ll say no more! Suffice to say, their contributions were often more challenging than supportive.

Thankfully, the overall event was a considerable success on all fronts and any behind-the-scenes trials were soon forgotten.

Looking back, however, the experience has provided number of life lessons for me to take away and apply to my everyday life— both at home and at work. There are, I believe, also some take-aways here for caregivers.

1. Think before you speak, text or email. Charity starts with your attitude towards others. Err on the side of being kind, friendly and open-hearted. Critical comments build walls, not bridges—so before you hit send, pause and ask yourself if your comments are sensitive, appropriate and constructive.

2. Be constructive. You might be well-meaning, but gossiping, flapping or complaining on the sidelines is not helpful, especially when others are vulnerable. Ask yourself, “Is this my role?” And if you’re not leading, try to be a mindful follower.

3. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you agree to help out, be clear about what you will do and be reliable. If your circumstances change and you’re no longer or less able to provide assistance, let someone know that you need back-up or a fill-in.

4. Do your opinions support the goal? Be ready to reinforce your point of view with facts and back them up with real work. Don’t lose sight of why you were willing to participate in the first place and, if you can’t agree with others or events, step aside gracefully.

5. Know when to trust others. Surround yourself with competent people and be willing to let go. Tasks that are done from the goodness of your heart don’t have to involve a power struggle. Look for consensus, be proud of what others on the team accomplish and don’t forget to give praise where it is due.

Lead, follow or get out of the way…It really is all about being clear and honest with yourself and others about the role you are prepared to play. This is a fundamental truth in living that applies no less in caregiving.

Caroline Tapp-McDougall

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