Are you indispensable? And why?

Day 6 of Recovery, 7am sitting in St. Cecelia’s Ward of the Mater Hospital. I slept in a bed for the first time in a week last night and also got unbroken sleep of 5 hours. I had to call a nurse for help getting out of bed. They recommended I take painkillers before moving. 4 broken ribs and a punctured lung.

I began writing this whilst in the hospital, reflecting upon the accident. It’s taken me until now to get around to complete it. A mixture of pain, medications, a business, my own life and a thesis have got in the way. Funnily enough, this is the whole point of writing this. 11 days later things are a million times better. Well, perhaps I am the eternal optimist with the growth mindset. Let’s just say that the pain is managed and my range of movement is improved enormously. I can cook, do basic chores, walk around and most importantly work. Unfortunately, the more I push it, the more I burn out. The pains and back tension increases and I hit overwhelming tiredness, 2 to 3 times a day. I have learned to try stay sitting in my garden chair and table, resting the body as much as possible. As someone who is used to never stop moving and doing stuff, it has been a little challenging.

I remember a colleague saying to me when I took on a new role back in 2010, “What happens, were you to be knocked down? Taken out of action for a while. How will the business still run?”. It’s a really good question. One that has taken me 7 years to fully understand. Over the last 3 months, I realised that I had made myself the most valuable asset in my business. It disturbed me and made me look at how might I make myself less indispensable. It is also a sound I hear from a lot of colleagues and friends. Everyone is too busy, to take time out. They just can’t stop. With Ireland relying on 99.8% of its businesses from SME’s, I wonder how many of these share a similar fate, of having a leader who is indispensable!

Why? I can’t answer for anyone else but myself. Well, it’s not by design. The irony of that response suddenly becomes apparent. I suppose, it just happened that way. I began as a sole trader 22 years ago and therefore I ended up where I am today. Yeah, but why did you not change it? There may be multiple answers to this. Lack of experience. Ego perhaps. Or not having the right supports around me to help understand what is the best way to run a business. Interesting. I thought I had to do it all on my own! Asking people for help feels…. do we want to go there? I learned at a young age, that I had to rely on myself. Perhaps, too many disappointments of people letting me down. I thought the best person to rely on was me. In hindsight, that seems, kind of sad. Obviously, I never stopped believing it. Looking for people to let me down. Guess what? You keep looking for something. You keep finding it.

The silver lining. There is always one. Trust me. What type of person am I, because of this. I am a helper. I love helping others. I love seeing needs and serving them. Yeah, I can hear, yeah that’s great Sam, what about you? I am surrounded by people, just like me. People who are willing to help. I just need to start asking. I need to realise that, people are not, mind readers. I thank my partner for this. A wise head on young shoulders. In the 10 days that I was totally out of action. My garden, which I spent so much time maintaining, was not watered. Let’s say, due to this, it lost its lustre. That’s what inspired me to finish this writing. It made me think about business. We have this vision. We feed it, nurture it, give it our time and love. Although, unless we ask for help. Or we have a system in place that accounts for all eventualities. We might design the very demise of the thing we chose to create in the beginning.

So, I wasn’t knocked down. Thankfully, only some scaffolding. Fortunately, it wasn’t a business with staff that rely on me to keep them in their homes and lifestyles. It was a garden and some spring flowers. Nevertheless, the lesson is the same. Why make ourselves indispensable? Whom are we serving? Ask for help.You will be surprised how many others out there will be there for you. Yes, you will also be disappointed. This is life. Yes, people may not do it exactly like how you do it. Although, you can teach them. You can design a better way. You can build the right supports around you. You can create a team that feel and believe in your vision. That share a similar passion towards achieving the mission. A set of values that are lived by everyone. An underlying strategy to be stronger together, to ensure there is no weak link. Allowing you time. Making yourself less valuable and therefore an organisation that is more effective.

In the next couple of weeks, I’m due to hand in my thesis. Then a new chapter begins. This last year has been an incredible journey. From it, a new vision has appeared. A really beautiful garden, for all, to enjoy its delights. I chose to learn and forgive myself for my mistakes. I need some help. I need support. I know there are people out there that can do it better than me. I need to ensure it will thrive. With or without me. I accept my limitations. I am dispensable. And for the first time, I’m okay with that. Are you?

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