Thursday, May 3, 2012

Junior Seau

The All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau died of a gunshot wound Wednesday morning, and the police are now treating it as a probable suicide.  There is an obvious tragedy that surrounds this, as with most suicides, a severe depression that leads to – in the strict sense of the word – the pitiful step of a lost soul who takes his or her own life.

In a moving discussion on the life of his friend, Marcellus Wiley, who knew Seau for many years, and played with him for several, related that he had seen Seau several months ago, had talked with, and tweeted Seau regularly and frequently, but Seau had never hinted at any of the demons that were haunting him, had never told anyone, even his family and close friends, that he was having trouble, or that he needed help.  It is, indeed, a tragedy.

For all of us, and particularly those in leadership positions, it is essential that we keep an eye out for any signs that someone is becoming depressed, withdrawn or in some way beginning to move down the road to a similar tragedy.  As Mr. Wiley pointed out, it is easy to miss the signs that someone you know, someone you are close to either as a friend or a business associate, is having trouble.  People become quite adept as hiding their problems.

The simple truth is that this is very difficult.  But the only answer is that you must know your people and know them well.  Obviously, I am not recommending placing your people ‘under surveillance’ or keeping secret dossiers on them.  But the immediate supervisors – at every level – ought to know the people who work directly for them.  Whether the line supervisor, the shop foreman, or the CEO or Chairman of the Board, the few (or 10 or 12) folks who work directly for you, ought to be people you know: their husbands or wives, their kids, where they live, what they do on weekends, how they use their spare time, where they went on their last vacation, when they went on their last vacation: this kind of information constitutes the beginning of getting to know them.  A workplace is a team, and every member of the team is important.  You need to know them well enough that you can spot trouble, perhaps well before the individual in question is even aware that he is in trouble.

This is not easy.  In fact, it is very difficult, and it requires that you devote effort and time to knowing and understanding your people, that you talk with them about more than work, that you listen to them, and pay attention to not only their work performance, but what they are saying and how they are saying it, their words, and their body language.

Leadership is not simply about ‘leading’ the team, it is about taking care of the team and each team member.  What happened to Junior Seau is a tragedy.  But we should use such tragedies to learn and improve our own lives and those around us.  Failure to do so would simply compound the tragedy.

And for Junior Seau, may he Rest in Peace.


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