There are special days we all experience. Some are sad like the death of loved ones, loss of a job or a relationship and others are happy events such as marriages, and the birth of children.
The first two weeks of December fit both those categories for my family and me. On Dec. 7, my mother died and was buried in Kentucky on the following Wednesday. The day after we returned from Kentucky we headed south again this time to North Carolina to celebrate the graduation of my son, Elijah, with a doctorate degree. It was an emotional roller coaster from one of life's saddest events to one of the happiest.
Several years ago my son moved far away from home for the first time and started his Ph.D. program, while teaching courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Recently before this, he had gotten married to an intelligent woman who also loves education. Choosing a good partner is a good start when faced with a set of difficult goals. A year later his son arrived. He had decided to do some of the hardest things in life all at once so I was a little concerned he would be overwhelmed. He jumped into a huge amount of responsibility. He had already earned two degrees so I knew he had the ability. But still, it was a lot to take on!
My son struggled as anyone would to design and teach a series of new classes while taking a full load of doctoral classes. One day while I was visiting him, he invited me to attend one of the classes he was teaching. I watched as he animatedly filled up chalk board upon chalk board with calculations. He made eye contact with the room full of students and diligently answered all questions they posed. He had learned to be a very good teacher.
On Dec. 14, my wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, grandson, and I along with other family members watched from the balcony as my son accompanied by others who had completed doctoral programs marched in to occupy the front row of seats. Soon, the ceremony began and several speakers finished their remarks. In turn Elijah walked to the front of the arena and received his hood from his advisor. Tears of pride trickled down my face. He had taken on a challenging set of goals and had succeeded with every one of them.
Had I been asked, which I wasn't, I probably would have suggested he take these huge changes one at a time. However, often people succeed the most when they take the largest risk. I know that the times when I have had the greatest responsibilities, I have achieved the greatest rewards. This equation of quantity of difficult goals and the quality of outcomes can be dangerous for leaders. The rewards are most successful when the employee chooses and values them. Leaders who force huge workloads on employees risk burning them out.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's completely revised, third printing of "The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.