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Care Without Burden

“It keeps me up at night,” she said. 

I stared at my client Taylor’s face on the screen of the Zoom call. There was sunlight coming through the window to her left, and behind her was the panoramic view of North Vancouver. 9.30am there, 5.30pm for me. I had my office light above me and a halo light in front of me, behind my computer, hinting a warmth of yellow to the white-walled room. Taylor’s eyes glistened with a shot of extra moisture. A squished wedge of lime lay rind down-smile up, next to her right elbow.



“I like that I care so much about every single person in my team. But I’m so worried about where we are going as a company” she said.

Taylor blinked and looked down. A saline drop fell from one eye.

“I’m sorry,” she said “I didn’t mean to get upset”

I gave a soft smile of ‘it’s OK’.

We both sighed. Twice. 

 

What I wished she knew at that moment was what the CEO of another company had seen for herself a few weeks earlier. Kirsty and I had met over 7 sessions, every 2 weeks. She came to me from another long-term business client because she was stressed to the hilt. Her business had grown over 11 years to needing a team of 23 full-time employees and 6 contractors to service their enviable list of Strategy Development clients. They do amazing work, and while some of their growing pains are common, they are not necessary.


One ‘growing pain’ for Kirsty was the weight of every single team member on her shoulders. Sometimes it was the worry of making next month’s salary payment run. Sometimes it was the worry of keeping every one of them happy at work. Sometimes it was the worry of her not feeling up to it – the job of being the leader. Sometimes it was the worry of the company not continuing to be successful, meaning that she’d have to let some of the team go.

In one of our early conversations, Kirsty told me that the burden of all these worries showed that she cared. To her, those two feelings were intertwined: that they were an unavoidable consequence of being a good leader of people.


It was an interesting take on what it takes in my mind. And misguided.

I knew she had a daughter in her second year of university and a son hoping to go this coming autumn. 

“How much do you worry about your kids?” I asked Kirsty.

“Not at all! They’re fine. I thought I would be worried about my eldest going away, but I wasn’t” she said

“What about your youngest?” I said

“No. I don’t worry about him, or this summer’s exams. He’ll be fine no matter what” she said. 

And she went quiet. She looked up, to one side and pondered. 


“Ok, before I jump to conclusions, why did you ask me about my kids?”

I giggled “Come on, what conclusions did you jump to?” I said

“I think I’m full of it on this one. I love my daughter and son more than anything in the world. But I don’t worry about them” she said and sat back.

“And for many other parents, it’s the other way around. That they worry about their children, but not their employees” I said.

“So” she went on to say “You mean I can love and care for someone without being worried about them?”

“I think you’ve already figured this out without me!” I said

Now the giggles came from both of us.


“Wait though. Shouldn’t I be worried?” she said a few moments later.

“Does it help?” I said.

“No…. from what you’ve shown me… no. It’s not at all helpful” she said.

“What makes that true for you Kirsty?”

“When I’m in a state of worry, I’m less clear. I have less ideas. I’m less creative. And I’m paying attention to the worry thoughts in my head, instead of the situation that does warrant my attention” she said, with heartfelt certainty.

I smiled back at her.

She breathed out a decade’s worth of unnecessary burden. 

 

Back to the first client I mentioned, Taylor in Vancouver.

Over the next 40 minutes, we explored the truth about what caring means, and what it doesn’t mean. That worry is not noble, nor is it a sign of caring. That caring is an independent feeling to the feeling of worry. That caring without the feeling of burden is not only possible, it is a leader at their best.

 

With love and gratitude, 

Wyn

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