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Leadership Lesson #3: The HUMAN in Resources

There are people who will join you early on in your growing of your company who will become part of the soul of your company. That person for us was Sherry. Sherry was a standout and another powerful, emotional example of how we make it our jobs to share in the stories of our employees’ lives, and in some cases, play key roles in those stories.

When I (finally) realized that I needed an account manager to help keep all those big clients I was landing, Sherry was among my first hires. In fact, she helped me understand the role and value of an account manager, attacking her job whole-heartedly.

Five to six years into her career with IMPACT Group, Sherry wasn’t feeling well. She went to her doctor and learned that she had lung cancer. This was devastating news and a total shock, especially since she was a nonsmoker. Even worse, her doctor told her that there was nothing they could do for this type of cancer short of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink, but not eliminate, the tumor. The future looked bleak. She was given six months to live.

Sherry was managing five or six people for us at that time. When she came to work every day she was understandably depressed. As the leader, I was forced to make a judgment call, balancing my concern for Sherry with the well being of my company. I called her into my office.

“Sherry,” I said, “I love you but you just can’t come to work depressed. We need you but first you need help and we’re going to do everything to help you. I want you to get some counseling so you can function better since you have made it clear you want to continue working. We will pay for the counseling.”
So, I sent her to my friend John, a counselor, and encouraged her to pour her heart out to him. And then… a miracle…

John referred her to an alternative medicine doctor, who identified that Sherry was actually suffering from mercury poisoning, a common cause of “nonsmoking lung cancer.” She took a week off to have all the mercury fillings in her teeth removed and replaced with safe, nontoxic ones. This stopped the mercury leakage. After that, she changed her diet, started juicing, and took additional measures to restore and preserve her health. She was a role model for taking control of one’s life.

She went on to become one of our mot successful managers. We made the decision to let her work how often she wanted and when based on how she was feeling. She told me, “Laura, had you not demanded I perform under difficult circumstances and given me that counseling, I wouldn’t have lived through the year.”

Sherry lived for another ten years. And came to work every day fired up and ready to go, until the last three months, when she came in whenever she felt well enough to work or she chose to work from home. At her funeral, her husband Mike opened his eulogy with emotional words that caught me off guard.
“Sherry loved her job. And we want to thank Mike, Laura and Lauren Herring for giving her the past ten years of her life. She lived to work at IMPACT Group. And I want to thank them for giving me more time with my wife.”

The good thing about being an entrepreneur is that you can make exceptions for exceptional people.

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