Be There

[Be There by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

“Since my phone still ain’t ringing, I assume it still ain’t you.” … Do you remember that line? If so, you might be a fan of Randy Travis or country music in general. Of course it’s an “oldie” – released in 1989. Is It Still Over, co-written by Ken Bell and Larry Henley and recorded by Randy Travis, became a #1 hit song on the US country charts.

I remember listening to that song for the first and thinking, “Wow!, that’s kinda cool. What does it mean?” … Well, it seems obvious 20+ years later. Why? Because I’ve thought about it a lot. A LOT. In fact, hardly a week or even a day goes by when it doesn’t run through my head. It’s true in so many areas of life. At work. At home. At school. At church. At sports. At military. At government.

What does it mean? It means that if you’re NOT receiving an answer, you’re not receiving an answer. If your BF or GF isn’t texting you, he or she isn’t texting you. If you’ve submitted a job application and no one has followed up, then, well …, no one has followed up.

It seems pretty superficial, yet in application, it can be deep. The SILENCE can be deafening. You’ve put your “best foot forward”, given it your all, tried your best, but you aren’t getting the results you want. You aren’t receiving a follow-up call, or text, or email. If the phone ain’t ringin, I’ll assume it still ain’t you.

This line has been on my mind a lot lately as I’ve been part of, and around, a significant amount of change both in my professional and personal lives. I’ve also coached leaders who are dealing with a significant amount of change. Like taxes and death, change seems to be a constant.

One of my key bits of advice to other leaders (as well as myself) is to be present during times of crisis and significant change. Though it may be tempting to run. Don’t. Though it may be easier to schedule a trip away from the office. Don’t. Though you may want to avoid certain people. Don’t.

Be present. Be available. Be accessible. … Show your face. Talk with people. Demonstrate empathy. When the phone rings, answer it. Be There for others.

Leaders often rationalize and say, “what can I really do?” The decision has been made and we’re not going to undo anything so why waste my time (and why put myself in an uncomfortable situation). This is not the right perspective.

A leader needs to be available. To be present. To be accessible. You need to Be There. Whether at home or work, you can’t always fix the problem or change the circumstances. You can, however, Be There. The presence of a leader (a true leader) is calming. Your presence provides stability. Your presence demonstrates commitment. Anyone can wear the title and enjoy the benefits when things are going well. When things are easy. Yet true leadership requires you to Be There when times are tough. When things aren’t easy. When you don’t have all the answers.

Trust me, others will notice. Others will appreciate your Being There. Others will take comfort from your presence. The flip-side of the coin is also true. If you’re absent when the going gets rough, people will notice. If you hide during tumultuous times of change, you’ll lose credibility. If the phone rings and you don’t answer, your organization will suffer.

As a leader, you’re constantly being evaluated, judged, put under the microscope. Tough? Yes. But if you chose the leadership mantle, then be prepared to Be There, during the good times and the tough times.

As I reflect on the last year, I can easily count dozen of examples where “leaders” chose not to Be There. Sad, but true. An issue came up and they left town for a few weeks. An issue came up and they didn’t return to deal with the crisis. An issue came up and they stayed in bed rather than get up at 2am to deal with the problem. An issue came up and they refused (passively and indirectly) to meet with the impacted person. I could go on and on with examples where the leaders phone rang and they didn’t answer. They weren’t there or they wouldn’t answer.

These “leaders” allowed fear, convenience, selfishness, greed, arrogance, etc. to get in the way. They refused to Be There. In some cases they were subtle, in others overt, yet people “see.” People see through the veil and know whether or not their leader is true, honorable, and of substance. Conversely, they know if their leader is false, a shadow, a charade.

How do you show your “presence” to those you lead? In your family? At work? Are you there for them?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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