Chances are, we’re incredibly familiar with this phrase. Whether parent, educator, professional, family member, or any combination of these, we’ve been subject to hearing that from others numerous times, and have likely been the one to say it on many more occasions. “I don’t feel good” is a sign that something is off, and whether it be physical, emotional, social, or something else, the speaker is telling the receiver that his or her balance has become unbalanced, and is seeking our help, counsel, or support.
My youngest daughter woke up on her birthday saying that to my wife and I. It was clear she had a fever, and it was clear that she was getting sick the day before (when we live or work with others for a while, we get to know when they’re taking a turn for the better, or worse). We took her over to the doctor, and “everything looked fine.” As a parent, you hope that most situations are simply viral, just as much as you hope they aren’t. This type of diagnosis means we wait it out, provide her with rest when she wants it, and keep her eating and drinking as best we can.
In our working lives, we see signs of “I don’t feel good” regularly, and unlike with family, it can sometimes be difficult to deduce what exactly is wrong, and it is much harder for us to inquire in a way that would seem as if it was not invading the privacy of others. Even without any admission of physical or emotional stress, however, we can, and must, support others as they go through difficult times. The benefit of having built a culture of compassion is evident in these situations. While a great leader can shoulder the stress and pain of others well, it becomes much more effective and much more realistic to share that burden across an organization or community. When all are willing to come together to help someone get back to where they want to be, that person’s recovery, while not necessarily faster, is boosted as so much to our health and wellness is emotional.
We also have to become experts at identifying signs of “I don’t feel good” in our schools, buildings, and districts. Are people acting differently than they have in the past? Has someone’s work or family situation changed recently? How can we best help support them? What structures fit their personality best?
Leadership is always about continuing to strengthen relationships. And, a key part of relationship-building is founded on questions we ask to determine exactly where people “are.” While we hope for very few “I don’t feel good” situations, we also deep-down know that they are a part of life. While we can’t control all the ills that impact those in our lives, we can control our response. And since wellness is more than physical, we can go a long way to helping move people from feeling unwell to doing great.