Leadership Perspectives | 04.10.19
What I Learned from My Brain-Injured Son: How to Manage a Team to Success
Some of you know about our son, Anthony, who is fully dependent, wheelchair and bed-bound as a result of full cardiac arrest due to an electrical defect when he was 12 years old. At the time of the event, Anthony was on the playground of the Sycamore Junior High School and was walking onto the basketball court to play before the bell rang that would signal the end of the lunch period. Apparently, he turned to his friend Dustin and said, “I don’t think I have a pulse.” He proceeded to collapse onto the black top.
Within a short time, the playground monitor and nurse came to assist, but by the time emergency personnel arrived, Anthony had been without oxygen for 7–10 minutes because his airway was blocked long enough to do significant global damage to his brain. From there, he was airlifted to Children’s Hospital. At three months, we brought him home and installed him and his equipment in the family room, in his favorite spot, so that he would be in the middle of everything. There, he existed in a coma, dependent upon machines for many months, maybe a year or more.
Comas are not necessarily as they are portrayed in movies or drama series. A person does not always suddenly awaken. Anthony was in one of these long-term comas, but over time and with the help and ingenuity and support of hundreds of people — therapists, doctors, nurses, teachers, family members, friends, case managers, Ohio legislators, judges, clinicians and even strangers — his brain began to fire the neurons that now allow him to blow his nose, suck on a straw, enjoy a movie and sing karaoke (badly, but joyfully)!
Anthony is now 32 years old, quite alive and attentive, although he fatigues easily because even sitting in his custom wheelchair requires effort. While he cannot feed himself, roll over in bed or turn on the TV, he is present, additive and often funny. His speech is hard to understand, but he is pleasant, loves people and because his short-term memory is terrible, he will talk to you about anything even though it might not apply, just so he can sustain a connection with you.
I am head coach and general manager of The Anthony Team. Everything and everyone reports to me or through me. I am responsible for all that is Anthony-related. For example, if something goes wrong with one of our three home care nurses’ billings, I will find the issue and solve it. If his ceiling lift that picks him up out of bed breaks, I will troubleshoot from the manual or instruct the nurse over the phone or call the supplier to coach me. If my husband has surgery and cannot help with Anthony for 10 weeks, I will do all the physical care when nurses are not present. I follow Anthony’s daily vital statistics, so that I can preempt possible physical issues. I’ve learned over 20 years that a spike in blood pressure and pulse may indicate an underlying issue that he is unable to communicate.
As head coach and general manager, I serve all team members who keep Anthony alive and healthy, and I must keep all the systems, equipment and processes running smoothly so they can do their jobs well.
As the Anthony Team head coach and general manager, I am the ultimate servant to those who care for him, directly or indirectly. My job is to:
- Provide necessary and timely resources
- Strategize and plan for the future
- Set goals
- Hold others accountable for their responsibilities
- Communicate personally
- Smooth the way
- Correct and redirect
- Always say “thank you”
The Anthony Team consists of about 10 individuals (nurses, nurse manager, doctors, massage therapist, day program manager, case manager) who are devoted to him and to his health and happiness. The core nursing team of three does the “heavy lifting”: the day-to-day grind of exercises, range-of-motion, standing him in his standing frame, showering, toileting, dressing and feeding. None of this is easy because Anthony is now 6’2”, 175 pounds and doesn’t always want to comply. But these three nurses do what it takes because they know it affects best outcome for his health and comfort.
As the new president and CEO of Anthony Cole Training Group, I approach my role in the same fashion. I am servant to a team of talented and motivated people. My job as president is to grow people and produce results. I can do this best by leveraging my strategic strengths, providing timely resources and delegating, setting individual goals, holding individuals accountable, communicating personally, empowering and supporting, smoothing the way, rewarding, correcting and redirecting, and regularly thanking each of my team members for their efforts and tenacity.
Selling is hard work. Selling can be exhilarating one day and disheartening the next. Those who produce are vulnerable to ups and downs because of all they cannot control. Budgets, mergers and acquisitions and personnel changes disrupt their efforts, cause delays or obliterate pending sales. Prospecting has become more frustrating with the advent of voicemail and email. There was a time when we were able to call and get someone on the phone. This seems a rare occurrence in the current age of electronics. The bar of entry to competitors has also been lowered due to the internet, so producers are losing business to competitors of which they’ve never heard. The list is long.
Those who sell are the lifeblood of our companies and without them and their heavy-lifting, our companies would not exist. As president and CEO, my goal is to serve each of my team member by asking regularly: “How can I help you be successful today?” or “Is there anything I can do to help?”
We may not always get an answer. But our team members will know that we asked, that we care and that we recognize the challenges they face daily. Lead by being the ultimate servant to those who surround you.
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